When To Admit Defeat

ABC reports on the statistic that about one out of every four teenagers in the United States smokes tobacco cigarettes:
Despite decades of anti-smoking education, one in four U.S. high school seniors still smokes. And three in four high school smokers continue to smoke as adults, according to a new report from the U.S. Surgeon General.
I crunched the numbers. According to that quote, the total number of people we would expect to be smokers in the USA would be (25% x 75%) = 18.75%. The CDC has estimated that the total number of smokers in the United States is 19.3%.

Told from one perspective, we could point to the terrors of teens who learn to smoke at an early age. The idea here is that so many of them continue smoking into adulthood (virutally all of them, in fact), that we should do everything in our power to stop teens from smoking.

But haven't we already done that? Short of making tobacco illegal, what more can we do? And considering how many people use illegal drugs, it's safe to say that even making tobacco illegal is insufficient to prevent people from smoking it.

We have sunk millions and millions of dollars into the lost cause preventing teen smoking. Considering all the money we've spent, the total percentage of teens who smoke is greater than the percentage of smokers across the entire population.

Is this sufficient evidence to suggest that the money we have spent on this was a waste and that our anti-smoking campaigns have been failures? If not, what is sufficient evidence?


1 comment:

  1. It is not clear, as there are many missing data here. For example, what is the delta in the teen smoking rate? What is the budget spent encouraging teens to smoke? What is the distribution of teen smokers among ethnic groups, income levels, and residence? I'm sure the rate of smoking has decreased in my lifetime, so I'd say it's justified. Depending on the other variables, it may be worth refocusing efforts to better reach the demographics that are worst affected, however.

    Smoking is a particular problem, in that the negative health impact affects many more people that those who partake in it, as well as the destruction of public environments from the smoke and litter. As such, government intervention is required to improve the average quality of life for the citizens. Since no one likes government regulation, I would definitely say that a higher price tag is justified if this can be accomplished by education instead of regulation.