More than 50 years after the first Surgeon General's report alerting the public to the health risks of tobacco products, cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.
An astonishing 480,000 deaths each year - one of every five deaths - are caused by tobacco.
Here in Pennsylvania, 22,000 adults die each year from tobacco-related illnesses, and, if current trends continue, 6,000 kids under the age of 18 will become daily smokers annually.
As a pediatrician, I see the exceptional harm of tobacco on the health of children, teenagers and families. But I also face a harder truth: almost all tobacco use starts during adolescence.
We know that more than 90 percent of adult smokers begin when they are under the age of 18 and more than 60 percent of high school users become adult smokers, so why aren't we taking more deliberate actions to delay the use of these addictive, deadly substances by teenagers and young adults?
Well, in Pennsylvania we have the opportunity to empower children and adolescents to live tobacco-free lives by raising the legal purchase age of tobacco from 18 to 21 years of age.
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The Southwestern Regional Tobacco Coalition is a multi-county effort created to address the diverse issue of tobacco use in the southwestern health district of Pennsylvania.