Preventing Youth from Commercial Tobacco and Emerging Products Initiation

December 9, 2021

As a region, our local communities must be empowered to lead the way in addressing the harmful impact commercial tobacco has on our states. Engaging and utilizing local and state policymakers, health systems, and local community members makes us a united force that can improve the health of everyone. By continuing best practices with retail education and enforcement visits, zoning ordinances, enabling ordinances, firmer tobacco retailer licensing structures, and mass media campaigns, our youth will live longer and healthier lives.


Nearly 9 out of 10 individuals who use tobacco products as adults began using commercial tobacco products by 18 years old.  Smoking in movies, music videos, and advertising portrays commercial tobacco use as a social norm, encouraging kids to smoke. Youth are also more likely to start using tobacco products when their parents or peers use commercial tobacco. Youth have continued to smoke and try new products at alarming rates, some states in the region remaining above the national average in many tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and vapor products. Commercial tobacco use can negatively affect the developing brain, increase the risk of developing cancer and other chronic diseases, thus emphasizing the need to reduce youth access to these products.


New commercial tobacco products are regularly introduced, gaining popularity among middle and high school students, making surveillance of the tobacco industry and marketing necessary to identify products and their potential risk. Youth access is related to the point of sale through retailers, social sources, and the internet. Protecting the most impressionable members of society, our children, is vital. The tobacco industry does not want to reduce youth access to commercial tobacco products because they need replacement smokers and commercial tobacco users. Reducing the number of tobacco retail outlets and/or tobacco advertising and promotion can prevent youth from starting the use of tobacco products.


Changing social norms is critical in preventing youth initiation and eliminating tobacco-related disparities. Here are a few examples of how the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s (OSDH) Tobacco Control Program has worked to address this issue through its Breathe Easy and Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT), Adult Partner programs. OSDH’s Breathe Easy program offers smoke-free and tobacco-free property signage and encourages businesses and municipalities to adopt smoke-free policies, thus reducing the idea that commercial tobacco use is the social norm. This program is also linked with SWAT, Adult Partner program, which worked to increase tobacco retailers' compliance with Oklahoma and federal tobacco laws and reduce youth access to tobacco by educating retailers on the importance of not selling to underage buyers.


As tobacco companies continue to target youth in their advertising to replace the number of tobacco users that die each day, it becomes apparent where the interventions as a tobacco preventionist would have the most impact on tobacco related use over time. The CDC has provided additional information on the Best Practices for Tobacco Control Programs.


Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) Tobacco Team

The Tobacco Control team is a part of the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s Chronic Disease Prevention Service. Currently, the team consists of a Tobacco Control Manager and three Tobacco Control Consultants. The main focus areas are tobacco prevention, protection from exposure to tobacco, and tobacco cessation. The OSDH Tobacco Control team works collectively with many federal, state, and local agencies to better serve Oklahomans and reduce tobacco use and increase cessation attempts, eliminate youth initiation, provide clean indoor air to end exposure to second and thirdhand smoke, and reduce tobacco-related health disparities.  For questions regarding tobacco control, please call the Chronic Disease Prevention Service line at 405.426.8300.

Strong dad carrying strong son
The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) Tobacco Team
Contributing Center(s):
Copyright © 2024 Prevention Technology Transfer Center (PTTC) Network