PTA History: Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth

By National PTA
1964 - Teenage Anti-Smoking Campaign, Levittown, Pennsylvania
1964 - Teenage Anti-Smoking Campaign, Levittown, Pennsylvania

Throughout PTA’s history, we have advocated to prevent the use and access of tobacco products to minors. Preventing tobacco use among youth is important for their overall growth and development.

We know to help children reach their full potential, we need to support the whole child—academic, social and emotional and well-being. That’s because a child cannot completely focus on their schoolwork if they are not healthy or in an unsafe environment.

Legacy in Anti-Tobacco Use for Youth

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (P.L. 111–31) bans the sale of tobacco products to minors, however it does allow state and local governments to regulate tobacco sales, including increasing the minimum age of purchase. Although the law prohibits the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from setting a national minimum sales age higher than 18, it does not limit the ability of state and local authorities to raise the minimum age in their own jurisdictions. 

In the United States, the definition of a minor is determined by each state, however generally speaking it is an individual under the age of 18. Therefore, we encourage advocates to urge their state decisionmakers to make legislative changes to the minimum age of purchase.

National PTA has adopted the following position statements and resolutions on the sale and access of tobacco products to minors:  

E-cigarette Use: A Serious Public Health Concern

Today, the new challenge is e-cigerette use. With over two million children and teens using e-cigarettes, youth e-cigarette use remains a serious public health concern. National PTA and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids are working together to raise awareness about the risks of using tobacco and helping to prevent e-cigarette and other tobacco use among youth.

PTAs nationwide are advocating in support of legislation, regulation and/or other national, state and local measures to:

  • Address the manufacturing of and ingredients in e-cigarettes
  • Prohibit the advertising, marketing and sale of e-cigarettes to individuals under the age of 21
  • Prohibit the use of e-cigarettes in public places and on school grounds

You can join in the effort to educate your school community about youth tobacco-use, prevention efforts and how to support the elimination of all flavored tobacco products. Find out how.

National PTA will also provide PTAs/PTSAs advocacy tools to lead anti-tobacco efforts within their communities and host education and advocacy school-wide campaign events for families.

Anti-Smoking Campaigns Across the Decades

Let’s look back at some PTA programs and campaigns that promoted healthy habits…

This article is part of a series, PTA: 125 Years of Legacy and Impact, in celebration of National PTA’s mission and work to better the lives of children, their families and school since 1897.

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