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Smoking May Be Down; But Teens Still Picking Up Bad Habit

March 23rd, 2011 by Deb McLean

  I’ve never been a smoker and I’m so pleased that overall smoking is down.  Thankfully, we don’t have to deal with it like years past everytime you went out to eat or rode in a plane.  But I wanted to share an article my friend Shannon Thigpen recently posted about Teen Smoking.    Please talk to your kids…early.  Posted by Shannon Thigpen 

It surprises me when I go to pick kids up from high school, (I am in a car pool) and I see teens lighting up as they speed away in their nice cars. To know that young people smoking at all saddens me. Such an urgency to smoke before leaving the school grounds indicates that they may already be addicted.

In 2009, over 17 percent of high school students were admittedly smokers, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Therefore, on average, at least four children in a class of 25 students were smoking. When you include teens using smokeless tobacco, the numbers were even higher. Approximately 30 percent of teens used tobacco before graduating from high school.

It makes me wonder if we’ve lost some of our diligence when it comes to getting the message to our children that smoking is bad.

It’s a good sign that the government is taking note of the problem. The Campaign For Tobacco Free Kids advocates for public policy to end smoking among youth through activism and awareness.

According to the organization more than 3,000 teenagers in the U.S. have their first cigarette between 13 – 17 years of age each year.

But more needs to be done to combat big spending by tobacco companies, who spend a reported $35 million each day to market, promote and protect the right to purchase tobacco. They realize there is a much better opportunity to have a long term customer if they get their future customer to experience the product before they turn 18.

Only one state (North Dakota) achieved the CDC recommended level of funding for preventive programs in 2007 even though such programs are proven effective. With the continued cuts in government funding, it is likely that preventive tobacco control programs will remain underfunded.

I asked the teens in my carpool and a few others whether they thought teenage smoking was a problem and why they thought teens smoked. It wasn’t a hard task, they all had friends who smoked to my dismay.

Overall, they thought smoking was a problem among teenagers. Curiosity and mimicking their parents behavior were among the reasons they began smoking.

“He started smoking because everyone in his family smokes, and some of his friends were smoking and he wanted to try it,” said Justice, a Westchase resident and my daughter, of one of her friends. “I don’t think it is cool or attractive.”

In order to revive the continual decline of tobacco use we must:

  • Make sure kids understand the immediate effects of smoking, including the decreased physical performance, lower immune system, yellow teach smelly clothes, hair, and skin.
  • Encourage schools to do all they can to get the message out about the risk of smoking using some of the powerful images of the consequences
  • Be an example by not smoking and if you are smoking; quit
  • Support raising taxes on cigarettes and making access to youth difficult
  • Make sure children are getting the messages at an early age so they are better equipped in high-school to just say no.

Check out Shannon’s website:

Originally published in Patch March 13, 2011. Visit WestchasePatch

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