Kicking the Habit: FDA, CVS Take Stance on Smoking

In February 2014, the Food and Drug Administration launched its first national public education campaign designed to prevent young people from using tobacco and to reduce the number of kids ages 12 to 17 who become regular smokers. The ads ran on TV, radio, print and online in more than 200 U.S. markets for at least 12 months.

CVS Caremark — the nation’s second-largest drugstore chain — also announced its decision to pull cigarettes and other tobacco products from its stores.

Both are steps in the right direction, according to Dr. Richard Rivera, a pediatrician at KidsDocs, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice in Carrollton. But there will be challenges ahead for the FDA’s campaign to reach its intended audience.

Richard Rivera, M.D.

Richard Rivera, M.D.

“I’m curious to see how it works with young people, who today live in a state of invincibility with the idea that nothing can hurt them,” Rivera said. “It’s really a challenge to get through and talk to them. A lot of this has to do with peer pressure.

“The concern with young people is that they’re already independent thinkers,” he said. “As they slowly develop and transform from children to adults, being ‘bullet-proof’ is part of their psyche. It’s a challenge to get through to them. When I speak to them in the office, we do everything we can to get to them early.”

The FDA campaign comes on the heels of a new surgeon general report, released last month, which calculated that 5.6 million American children will die from tobacco-related illness, unless the country takes immediate action to lower smoking rates. About 3,200 teens try their first cigarette each day and 700 become life-long smokers.

“We find that many of them don’t even know smoking’s addicting,” Rivera said. “They don’t use the word ‘addiction’ to describe the habit. So coming at it from this angle might be a good way to approach them.”

Physicians employed by Texas Health Physicians Group practice independently and are not employees of the hospital or Texas Health Resources.

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