SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Tobacco use trends in California among the young are raising some red flags at the state Department of Public Health.
Nearly 9 percent of stores statewide illegally sold to minors, that is up from 5.6 percent the previous year. And 18-24 year olds are now smoking more than any other age group in California.
"Youth and young adults who get addicted to tobacco end up smoking their entire lives, and they and their families suffer the consequences," California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ron Chapman said.
The state projects it'll spend $6.5 billion this year to deal with adult health care related to smoking, which is $400 per taxpayer.
It's unclear why younger people are picking up the habit.
But the study noted the prevalence of smoking was higher in schools in neighborhoods with five or more stores that sell tobacco and smokeless products are becoming more and more popular with nearly 4 percent of high school students using them.
"The smokeless tobacco products are not safer," Chapman said. "The trends are very concerning."
On a college campus, students said they smoke because they're stressed, rising tuition costs, juggling jobs and classes are just too much.
The young smokers said they started in high school.
"School, trying to find a college, enough money and then jobs," Smoker Spencer Douglas said. "I have three jobs right now. So all of that was a lot of pressure."
"I'm very aware of what it does to your body, and what it does to you as a person," Smoker Gabriel Cortez said. "I don't like it. That's why I'm going to try and quit."
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has been critical of states like California for not spending enough of their 1998 multi-billion dollar settlement from tobacco companies on smoking prevention.
Lifelong smoker Keith Kimber, who also started in high school, agrees.
"I just don't think they're using the funds effectively enough," Kimber said.
The state said for every dollar it spends on anti-smoking campaigns, the tobacco industry spends $8 to attract more smokers.
By Nannette Miranda