Tobacco Products

Youth and Tobacco

teenage boys

Almost 90 percent of adult daily smokers started smoking by the age of 18,1 and more than 2,300 youth under 18 smoke their first cigarette every day in the U.S.2 In fact, use of tobacco products, no matter what type, is almost always started and established during adolescence when the developing brain is most vulnerable to nicotine addiction.3,4 If the current trajectory of smoking rates continues, 5.6 million children in the U.S. alive today will die prematurely as a result of smoking.5 

These facts highlight a critical need for stronger, more targeted youth tobacco prevention efforts grounded in regulatory actions designed to protect America’s kids.


FDA's Plan for Tobacco and Nicotine Regulation

On July 28, 2017, the FDA announced a comprehensive plan for tobacco and nicotine regulation that places nicotine, and the issue of addiction, at the center of the agency's tobacco regulation efforts. This plan will serve as a multiyear roadmap to better protect kids and significantly reduce tobacco-related disease and death in the U.S. One of the key efforts announced includes starting a national public dialogue about lowering nicotine levels in cigarettes to non-addictive levels to decrease the likelihood that future generations become addicted to cigarettes. 


Understanding Youth Tobacco Use in the U.S.

The FDA is committed to a science-based approach that addresses public health issues associated with tobacco use. That's why we collaborate with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Office on Smoking and Health on the only nationally-representative survey of middle and high school students that focuses exclusively on tobacco use—the National Youth Tobacco Survey. Results from this survey provide the FDA with some key national indicators of the effectiveness of comprehensive tobacco prevention and control programs.


Public Health Education to Reduce Youth Tobacco Use

After decades of steadily declining rates, youth tobacco use has largely plateaued since 2011. While cigarette and cigar use have generally declined, sharp increases in e-cigarette and hookah tobacco use among teens in previous years have offset progress overall.6 

Further, youth who use tobacco today do so despite the efforts that led so many of their peers to remain tobacco-free in the past, making them a harder audience to reach and motivate with tobacco prevention messages.7  

With these challenges in mind, the FDA developed and launched several award-winning youth tobacco prevention campaigns to educate at-risk teens about the harmful effects of tobacco use. FDA’s general market campaign, “The Real Cost,” launched in 2014, educates teens on the dangers of using cigarettes, and was expanded in 2016 to message on smokeless tobacco, and again in 2017 to message on e-cigarettes. The campaign has been extremely successful in reaching at-risk youth, and in its first two years, “The Real Cost” prevented an estimated 350,000 teens ages 11 to 18 from initiating smoking between 2014 and 2016, half of whom might have gone on to become established adult smokers. By preventing these kids from becoming established smokers, disclaimer iconthe campaign has saved them, their families, and the country more than $31 billion by reducing smoking-related costs like early loss of life, costly medical care, lost wages, lower productivity, and increased disability.


Flavored Tobacco

FDA issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to seek public comment on the role that flavors in tobacco products—including menthol—play in attracting youth. The agency already banned certain characterizing flavors in cigarettes in 2009, including fruit and clove , because of their appeal to youth. The agency's national effort to enforce this provision of the Tobacco Control Act and to advise parents about the dangers of flavored tobacco products was one of its important first steps toward responsible tobacco regulation to protect youth.

Learn more about FDA’s efforts to explore the potential risks and benefits of flavored tobacco products.


Regulations Restricting the Sale and Distribution of Tobacco Products to Protect Children and Adolescents

Since 2009, the FDA has regulated cigarettes, smokeless, and roll-your-own tobacco. In 2016, the FDA finalized a rule to regulate all tobacco products, including:

  • E-cigarettes/electronic cigarettes/vaporizers
  • Cigars
  • Hookah (waterpipe tobacco)
  • Pipe tobacco
  • Nicotine gels
  • Dissolvables

These rules protect children and adolescents by restricting youth access to all tobacco products by:

  • Not allowing products to be sold to anyone younger than 18 and requiring age verification via photo ID
  • Not allowing tobacco products to be sold in vending machines (unless in an adult-only facility)
  • Not allowing the distribution of free samples of tobacco products


1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking - 50 Years of Progress. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2014.
2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality; 2017. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-DetTabs-2016/NSDUH-DetTabs-2016.htm. Accessed October 12, 2017.
3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking - 50 Years of Progress. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2014.
4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS). A Report of the Surgeon General: Preventing Tobacco Use among Youth and Young Adults. We Can Make the Next Generation Tobacco-Free (Consumer Booklet). Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2012.
5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS). The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2014.
6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tobacco use among middle and high school students – United States, 2011-2016. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2017; 66(23):597-603.
7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Association Between The Real Cost Media Campaign and Smoking Initiation Among Youths — United States, 2014–2016. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2017; 66(02);47–50.


 

Resources for Parents

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Page Last Updated: 08/16/2018
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