Editorial - Teen tobacco use still a problemOne would think the widespread, aggressive campaigns that have detailed the dangers of tobacco would have all but snuffed out teen smoking by now.
One would think the widespread, aggressive campaigns that have detailed the dangers of tobacco would have all but snuffed out teen smoking by now.
One would think that the “glamour” and “coolness” that some young people used to associate with smoking would be only a wisp of what it once was.
One would think that today’s young people realize that smoking doesn’t equate to being an “adult,” aside from leading to life-shortening adult health problems down the road.
But the lure of smoking is still very much there.
The U.S. Surgeon General issued a report last week titled, “Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults” that underscored the problem.
The 920-page report outlined health consequences of using tobacco, particularly for youth and young adults. Some of the findings:
• Almost one in five high school-aged teens uses tobacco.
• More than 80 percent of smokers begin by age 18 and 99 percent of adult smokers in the U.S. start by age 26.
• More than 3,800 people smoke their first cigarette under the age of 18 and more than 1,000 of them become daily smokers.
• About 5.2 percent or 600,000 middle school students are current smokers.
• Since 1994, smoking among high school students has declined from 27.5 percent to 19.5 percent, or about 3 million students, but the rate of decline has slowed in recent years.
The report also examined an increase in advertising activities by the tobacco industry and found that advertising has been shown to “cause the onset and continuation of smoking adolescents and young adults.”
Nearly $10 billion was spent in 2008 on cigarette marketing by the five biggest tobacco companies, a 48 percent increase from what was spent in 1998.
There’s help for young smokers trying to quit the habit. Minnesota’s “QUITPLAN Services” is a free, professional counseling service that has helped more than 18,000 Minnesotans successfully quit smoking.
Its services include a helpline that offers telephone counseling and free nicotine patches, lozenges or gum to eligible callers. The number is 1-888-354-PLAN (7526).
It also has a website – www.quitplan.com – that offers free lifetime membership, helpful quitting tools and activities and the option to connect online with thousands of others who have chosen to quit tobacco.
Not taking up the habit, of course, is easier than trying to break it. Parents can help by serving as role models and not smoking themselves. They should talk to their children at an early age and warn them – not only about the health consequences of smoking but how to handle the peer pressure they may receive from their friends or others at school who want them to light up.
Don’t let your child be the one in five high school students who takes up smoking.
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