RAI and its subsidiaries share society’s belief that minors should never use tobacco products, including vapor products (also called electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes). Youth tobacco use is illegal, and it hurts our businesses. Some government responses to youth tobacco use, such as stricter penalties for complicit adults, are reasonable and effective. Others, such as excessive tobacco excise tax increases, unfairly burden adult tobacco consumers, create illicit markets that hurt our businesses and don’t prevent youth access to tobacco.
Multiple independent studies show progress in reducing youth tobacco use and access.
- CDC research shows the U.S. high school smoking rate at 15.7 percent in 2013, down from its peak of 36.4 percent in 1997.
- A University of Michigan study similarly noted that the smoking rate among 8th, 10th and 12th graders has dropped by three-quarters since its peak in 1997, to 7 percent, the lowest rate since the survey began in 1975. Even so, more remains to be done to reduce youth tobacco use as the study also reported that teens were more likely to use e-cigarettes than traditional cigarettes. According to the survey, e-cigarette use among 10th and 12th graders was 14 percent and 16.2 percent, respectively.
- The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported in 2014 that the rate of tobacco sales to minors was 9.6 percent in 2013, compared to a violation rate of 40.1 percent in 1997, making it significantly more difficult for teens to buy tobacco.
While these findings demonstrate the effectiveness of youth tobacco prevention strategies, continued diligence is needed and we remain committed to furthering youth tobacco prevention (YTP). Preventing the use of tobacco products by minors is a core component of RAI’s sustainability strategy.
Goals and Leadership
Our goal for Youth Tobacco Prevention is to lead corporate, educational and legislative initiatives that accelerate the decline in youth tobacco use. We measure our success through various mechanisms, including:
- Distribution of Right Decisions Right Now: Be Tobacco Free program (RDRN);
- Number of employee-led RDRN presentations; and
- Legislation passed to prevent minors from purchasing, using and possessing tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
The cross-functional YTP Pillar Team includes representatives from public affairs, government relations, philanthropy and communications. The team meets monthly to advance our efforts, and reports to the Transforming Tobacco Steering Committee and to the RAI Leadership Team on the progress toward goals and efforts around our programs and priorities.
In 2015, the YTP Pillar Team introduced a comprehensive, multi-year pilot program called the North Carolina Plan, with the goal to reduce youth tobacco use throughout the state. The plan coordinates YTP efforts throughout RAI and its operating companies under a single guiding strategy, and seeks to increase employee participation, as well as generate greater understanding and involvement from external stakeholders, by developing reliable engagement mechanisms, messaging and metrics. Stakeholder groups engaged by the North Carolina Plan include employees, trade partners, educators, government officials, non-profit organizations and consumers. Goals and engagement mechanisms are included for each stakeholder group, and are owned by a member of the YTP Pillar Team. YTP Pillar Team members have personal goals linked to the success of the North Carolina Plan and their specific stakeholder groups. For example, the Pillar Team member responsible for employee engagement has a goal to increase the number of employee presenters by 10 percent in 2016. The YTP Pillar Team hopes to accomplish this goal through various mechanisms, such as creating an RDRN Employee Advisory Council, whose goal is to educate and engage employees. The Team anticipates expanding this comprehensive YTP strategy to other states in the future.
Programs and Priorities
RAI and its operating companies are proud of the programs they’ve developed, and the efforts they’ve made, to accelerate the decline in youth tobacco use. Our commitment is to keep Youth Tobacco Prevention at the forefront of our efforts as we pursue our vision of transforming the tobacco industry. It’s the right thing to do for our society and it’s the right thing for our businesses.