FORT SILL, Okla. (July 18, 2013) --Tobacco use is the number one preventable cause of death in the United States. Nearly 443,000 people one in five die each year due to tobacco related illnesses. Yet, every day in the United States, 4,000 people under the age of 18 smoke their first cigarette. The number of American youth becoming daily smokers each year is estimated at 400,000. Even though statistics show a steady decline in youth tobacco use over the past few years, the number of new daily smokers is still good news to the tobacco industry because they gain customers each day to replace the ones who die from their products.

As part of the Operation Live Well Health Expo campaign in the month of July, the Fort Sill Tobacco Cessation Program is providing anti-tobacco education at the Youth Center and School Age Centers. The program is hosting a multi-media art contest in which participants can create anti-smoking media in the following categories - hand drawn artwork, graphic design and radio/TV public service announcements.

A nurse from the Tobacco Cessation Program at Reynolds Army Community Hospital provides information to youth regarding the harmful effects of tobacco use over a lifetime, the financial impact of tobacco use and points out how tobacco use is promoted through advertising and images in movies.

The program's goal is to provide awareness and education that will directly decrease the chances that Fort Sill youth will try tobacco.

However, the effort to keep young people from trying tobacco products is an uphill battle. Tobacco companies spend $23 million each day on cleverly designed advertising to attract new young customers.

Youth aspire to be like the models in the scenes depicted in the ads healthy looking young adults playing at the beach, driving convertible sports cars or skiing at a mountain resort. And even though the advertising images don't show children or youth using tobacco, it is the images of living an exciting lifestyle that appeals to young people. The tobacco industry also promotes advertising and sponsorship of events that youth are likely to attend, such as concerts, sporting events, etc. Research shows that American youth are more likely to try cigarettes due to marketing rather than by peer pressure alone.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that 88 percent of adult smokers say that they started smoking before they were 18 years old. Youth who use tobacco products during adolescence will be far more likely to become addicted than individuals who don't try tobacco until they are adults.

Over the past few years, there has been a steady decline in tobacco use over most age groups, but not in the 18-and-under group. Each day in the United States, some 4,000 young people under 18 years of age smoke their first cigarette, according to a 2012 Department of Health and Human Services study. Of that group, over 1,000 youth will become new daily smokers each year.

Nicotine is an addictive drug, and youth often do not understand how addictive it can be in any form.

Even casual use of tobacco products over a 30 to 60 day period can cause addiction. Once they are addicted, they feel the need to use nicotine products every day.

The National Institute of Health states that 25 percent of high school students in the United States smoke cigarettes.

Also, many youth think using smokeless tobacco products is safe compared to cigarettes because they don't inhale smoke, but this is not true.

The American Cancer Society states that use of smokeless tobacco products is higher among young people 18 years old and under than with adults.

Smokeless tobacco products, such as chewing tobacco and snuff, have three to four times more nicotine than cigarettes, and create a much stronger oral addiction than smoking.

The tobacco companies have increased efforts to promote smokeless tobacco to consumers, especially youth, to counteract bans on cigarette smoking across the nation. In 2006, the five largest smokeless tobacco manufacturers spent over $354 million on advertising and promotion, the highest amount ever recorded, according to the American Lung Association.

Fortunately, many states restrict cigarette and smokeless tobacco sales to only those 18 years of age and older, and have increased taxes significantly on most tobacco products to deter sales. Most states have also banned smoking in public places and anywhere youth are present, such as schools, public playgrounds and youth sporting events.

The Federal government, as well as many state governments and organizations have begun anti-tobacco campaigns that reach out to youth and children.

The effectiveness of these anti-tobacco programs is still controversial according to recent research by the CDC. Further research supports that using public service announcements showing people who suffer from the effects of tobacco-related diseases are the most effective messages aimed at certain age groups.

The strongest message against youth using tobacco comes from parents and adults who do not use tobacco products themselves and encourage youth to not start using tobacco, or to quit if they have started.