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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release August 10, 1995

White House Fact Sheet on Children and Tobacco


The Clinton Administration is proposing a comprehensive and coordinated set of measures to significantly reduce the number of children and adolescents who become addicted to nicotine in cigarettes and smokeless tobacco (snuff and chewing tobacco). Children are becoming addicted to these products, with more than 80 percent of smokers beginning to smoke by age 18. Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States and health care costs associated with smoking soared to more than $50 billion in 1993, according to the Centers for Disease Control. While the proposed measures will continue to maintain the legal status of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products for adults, they will reduce the easy access and strong appeal for children. Preventing children from smoking is key to reducing the deadly toll of smoking. The Clinton Administration's plan will help parents provide their children with an environment in which to grow up healthy.

A Pediatric Disease
Children are becoming addicted to nicotine. The average teenage smoker starts at 14-1/2 years old and becomes a daily smoker before age 18. More than 80 percent of all adult smokers had tried smoking by their 18th birthday and more than half of them had already become regular smokers by that age. Studies now show that if people do not begin to smoke as teenagers or children, it is unlikely they will ever do so.

Each and every day another 3,000 young people become regular smokers and nearly 1,000 of them will eventually die as a result of their smoking. Currently, more than 3 million children and adolescents smoke cigarettes and 1 million adolescent boys currently use smokeless tobacco. Smoking by young people is rising sharply. Between 1991 and 1994, the percentage of eighth graders who smoke increased 30 percent, and the percentage of 10th graders who smoke increased 22 percent.

Children tend to vastly underestimate the likelihood that they will become addicted to these products. Although only 5 percent of daily smokers surveyed in high school said they would definitely be smoking five years later, close to 75 percent were smoking seven to nine years later. A survey conducted in 1992 found that approximately two-thirds of adolescents who smoked said they wanted to quit and 70 percent said they would not start smoking if they could make that choice again.

Smoking: Leading Cause of Avoidable, Premature Death Tobacco use takes an enormous, deadly toll each year. Tobacco products are responsible for more than 400,000 deaths each year due to cancer, respiratory illness, heart disease and other health problems. Cigarettes kill more Americans each year than AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, murders, suicides, illegal drugs and fires combined. Smokers who die as a result of smoking would have lived on average 12 to 15 years longer if they had not smoked.

The health care costs associated with tobacco use are rising. The Centers for Disease Control estimated that in 1993 the health care costs associated with smoking totalled $50 billion: $26.9 billion for hospital costs; $15.5 billion for doctors; $4.9 billion in nursing home costs; $1.8 billion for prescription drugs and $900 million for home-health care expenditures. The Office of Technology Assessment calculated the social costs attributable to smoking in 1990 at $68 billion. That calculation was based on $20.8 billion in direct health care costs and $6.9 billion in lost productivity from disabilities and $40.3 billion in lost productivity from premature deaths.