Newsroom > DHHS News Release

March 8, 2012
Leah Bucco-White, Communications and Legislative Services, 402-471-9356
New Surgeon General’s Report Focuses on Making the Next Generation Tobacco-Free
An estimated 15% of Nebraska’s youth smoke cigarettes
Lincoln – Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) officials commented today on the release of the latest U.S. Surgeon General’s report, “Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults.” 
“We’ve known for several years that if youth can be prevented from starting to use tobacco, chances are good they won’t ever start,” said Dr. Joann Schaefer, the state’s Chief Medical Officer and Director of Public Health for DHHS. “This report notes that nearly 9 out of 10 smokers start by age 18 and 99% start by age 26.”
The report finds that tobacco marketing is a key factor in causing young people to start using tobacco, with 99% of all new smokers coming from youth and young adult populations who are enticed to smoke by various marketing techniques.
While the long-term health effects of tobacco use are well-known, the Surgeon General’s report concludes that smoking early in life has substantial health risks that begin almost immediately – even for youth and young adults. Smoking during youth and adolescence slows lung growth.  Teens who smoke are not only short of breath today – they may end up as adults with lungs that never reach their full capacity.  That damage is permanent.
“One of the primary goals of the DHHS Tobacco Free Nebraska Program is youth prevention,” said Judy Martin, Administrator, Health Promotion Unit, DHHS Division of Public Health.  “We know that tremendous strides can be made by focusing on prevention and delaying the onset of tobacco use.”
Major strides have been made in Nebraska.  The Nebraska Youth Risk Behavior Survey reports that high school youth smoking rates are at 15% in 2010, down from an all-time high of 39.2% in 1997. 
The Surgeon General’s report further provides scientific evidence on young people’s sensitivity to nicotine. The younger they are when they start using tobacco, the more likely they are to get addicted and the more heavily addicted they will become. Nicotine addiction will cause about three out of four teens to smoke into adulthood, even if they intend to quit after a few years.
For more information on the Tobacco Free Nebraska Program, visit  Online copies of the Surgeon General’s report and accompanying materials can be found at: