To protect kids from tobacco, pediatricians say, focus should be on quitting – or never starting

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that more must be done to stop children from using tobacco, as smoking rates for adults in the US are at their lowest recorded levels.

To protect kids from tobacco, pediatricians say, focus should be on quitting – or never starting


The American Academy of Pediatrics has released a set of new policy statements that urges parents to do more to prevent their children from smoking.

These statements are the first update to the association's tobacco policy since 2015. The statements are based on more recent science and reflect the fact that many children use e cigarettes now, as more child-friendly products have been introduced to the market.

AAP policy statements were created by pediatricians with expertise to assist leaders in crafting more effective public policy, and to guide doctors on how to keep children safe. In this case from tobacco.

Smoking rates are high

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, despite decades of research warning Americans that tobacco products were harmful, nearly 200 US children smoke every day.

The CDC says that tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States. The CDC states that tobacco use is the No.

AAP reports that the AAP has found a high rate of children using e-cigarettes, while the use of cigars and hookahs have not decreased. The pediatricians do note that traditional smoking of cigarettes has decreased over the years.

According to the CDC, by 2022, approximately 5% of students in middle school and 17% of those in high school will have reported using tobacco. In 2021, approximately 11% of middle-schoolers and 34% high-schoolers reported that they had tried tobacco.

According to the CDC, most adult smokers began smoking at a young age.

Smoking rates are disproportionately higher in certain communities. These include those who are Black or Hispanic as well as Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and LGBTQ+.

What doctors can do

The AAP's updated policy statements continue to encourage pediatricians, as part of routine child checkups, to screen children for tobacco use. The report states that tobacco talk should begin no later than 11 or 12 years old.

Children who are addicted to tobacco should be referred to a pediatrician for behavioral interventions such as counseling, or prescribed nicotine replacement therapy.

According to Dr. Susan Walley who is the co-author of these new policy statements, this practice has changed over the years. She said that in medical school her professors did not talk about smoking much, except to encourage people to stop.

"Now we know that it is an addiction, and chronic disease. It would be the same as telling a diabetic to 'just think about improving your blood sugar'. Walley, a Pediatrician at Children's National, Washington D.C., said that they have learned a lot.

According to the new report, children who smoke should not be encouraged by their parents to switch over to e-cigarettes. The AAP has said that there is no evidence to support the claim of some experts that e cigarettes are an effective tool for quitting smoking.

Pediatricians should ask caregivers to tell them about their smoking habits, and offer advice. AAP reports that nearly 40% of children are regularly exposed secondhand smoke. The AAP also states that caregivers are the main reason for this exposure.

Secondhand smoke in children can cause respiratory infections, ear infections, and asthma attacks. According to the CDC, since 1964, secondhand smoke has caused health problems in more than 2,5 million nonsmokers.

What the Government can do

The AAP urges the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to better regulate tobacco and nicotine products and for the federal government fund tobacco prevention, screening and treatments programs that are specifically designed for children.

According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, despite receiving nearly $27 billion this year from a settlement on tobacco and taxes, states underfund programs that help prevent children from using tobacco and encourage people to quit.

The AAP suggests raising the price of tobacco products as higher prices may deter young smokers.

Studies have shown that taxes are one of the best ways to reduce smoking in children. Congress has not raised the federal tobacco tax in 14 years. Taxes on other tobacco products vary, but the federal cigarette tax is $1.01 per package. In 2022, no state will increase its cigarette tax.

Flavored products are a great way to attract people.

AAP's policy statements on tobacco recommend that all flavors, including menthol, be banned.

The FDA proposed in April to eliminate two popular tobacco products among children: flavored cigarettes and cigars. It could take years for this to become a reality. Even if the rule is finalized by the FDA this year, tobacco manufacturers will likely sue in order to prevent it from becoming a law.

For years, tobacco companies have used menthol as a way to mask the taste of their products. It makes products more appealing to new users, and it is harder to quit.

The tobacco companies also introduce flavored products, such as blue raspberry or sour apples in disposable vapes that are child-friendly.

"Unfortunately, they have also very, very high nicotine levels. The tobacco products have exploded. Walley explained that the problem is partly due to a lack of regulation and, on top of this, these new oral nicotine products are gaining popularity among our youth.

Walley believes that more children will be able to quit smoking or never start, but she is aware that pediatricians are going to have a tough job, given what her sons say about school.

She said, "I am a mother of three boys and it breaks my heart to hear that my sons don't go to the restroom because they are afraid that people vape in there. They're not getting a bathroom break for most of the day." The fact that kids have become so addicted to vaping, they sneak into the bathroom or use covert clothing to vape in class, proves this is a serious public health issue.

Walley, from the AAP, said that the AAP wanted to remind people that this was one of the social determinants for health which is most easily modifiable. We can't change many of the social factors that affect health. But we can influence whether or not people use tobacco.