Smoking is a scourge on the health and welfare of citizens here in South Carolina as elsewhere.
Most disturbing to me now is an upturn in smoking prevalence among young adults (18 to 24 years old) and the potential serious consequences not only for them but for the younger children in their environment.
Physicians and public health officials around the state are asking for help in facing this epidemic.
Under the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, monies in South Carolina go to Medicaid for sick care, but don't address the prevention needs that inhibit youth and young adult initiation of tobacco use. Some of these dollars should go instead for health promotion.
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Other states have done otherwise.
New York City instigated a four-part approach: increased tobacco taxes; established strong tobacco-smoke-free air policy; implemented aggressive media campaigns; and provided free cessation services to smokers. Its campaign resulted in a 50 percent decrease in youth smoking between 2002 and 2008.
Smoking is a serious issue for me as a pediatrician and for the American Academy of Pediatrics, not just for the sake of our adolescents and young adults, but also because of the impact on the health of the younger children who are around them. It's a cost to all of us as taxpayers as we pay for the consequences of tobacco exposure.
It's disheartening to me that we are not more serious in South Carolina at using tobacco settlement funds to foster a comprehensive public health approach to this problem.
Francis E. Rushton Jr.