Protecting Our Nation’s Youth

Ed note: This blog was cross-posted from the White House Blog.

For many kids, their first cigarette leads to a lifetime of addiction, and for many, serious disease. With 20 percent of U.S. high school students smoking, keeping tobacco out of the hands of minors can have a huge impact on our nation’s health now and in the future. That’s why President Obama and his Administration are committed to doing all we can to stop kids from smoking. 

We took an important step toward achieving that goal when the Food and Drug Administration issued more than 1,200 warning letters to retailers for selling tobacco to kids. The letters come after we conducted more than 27,500 inspections nationwide. Most retail store owners follow the law and don’t sell cigarettes to kids, but we’re reminding those who don’t that they have a responsibility to follow the law and that there are serious consequences if they fail to do so.   

You can search our database of inspection reports for tobacco retailers by name and location to see how your community checks out. You can also take the pledge to protect our nation’s children by supporting retailers who follow the law and do not sell cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products to youth. Let your local establishments know you appreciate their efforts to protect our kids. 

These kinds of activities are just a part of our campaign to stop children from smoking. President Obama was proud to sign the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act which gives us new tools to help stop young people from smoking before they start. Those tools include graphic warning labels that make the danger of smoking abundantly clear. Big tobacco companies are trying to stand in the way of these commonsense measures to protect our kids, but we’re confident their attempts will ultimately fail. 

We know our campaign against tobacco is a ‘winnable battle’. It is a public health challenge where the strategies to address it are proven and in-hand.  We have the science. Under President Obama, we have the leadership and commitment. And now, more than ever, we have the laws and policies that will allow us to protect the health of our nation’s kids.

Kathleen Sebelius is the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

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