Here’s a trend we don’t need: more young adults are smoking in California, thus increasing the health risks for themselves and their children (or future children).

I’ve had an ironic relationship with tobacco over the years. With our work funded almost entirely by Proposition 10 tobacco taxes, our Commission has had to carefully plan the use of these funds that have decreased almost every year with the ongoing reduction in tobacco consumption. I’ve even joked about it: “Buy ‘em, don’t smoke ‘em” has been my witty retort over the years. We’ve been able to do great things for children with the revenues, and knowing that we were also keeping the price of smoking out of reach for young smokers has been a wonderful added benefit.

One of the great public health successes of our time is the significant reduction in smoking in California due to restrictions in workplace and public smoking, higher taxes, and restricted access to minors, keeping them from starting at an early age. As a result, smoking-related disease has declined dramatically in California since the early 1990s, much faster than the nationwide decline.

This is a family issue. Smoking hurts everyone, including the children of smokers. Think of all the young children who have grown up in smoke–free families in the last twenty years because their parents never started smoking as teenagers. And suddenly we learn the smoking rate of adults aged 18-24 goes up 18% in 2011 after declining in four of the previous five years.

This is not a trend we can allow to reverse itself.

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