A great deal of progress has been made in reducing tobacco use among our youth. However, far too many of our kids are still making the unhealthy decision to smoke. According to a recent report from the U.S. Surgeon General’s office, today more than 600,000 middle school students and 3 million high school students smoke cigarettes. In the enlightened era in which we are raising kids today, those numbers are shockingly high.
For years, it was encouraging to hear of studies that indicated tobacco use among our kids was declining. But in the last decade, the rates of decline for cigarette smoking have slowed and the decline for using smokeless tobacco has completely stalled.
If you read my blog, the likelihood is that you have already spoken to your kids about not smoking. I applaud you for that. I encourage you to share with your friends how important youth smoking prevention is to you and remind them that parents can greatly influence whether their child will try that first cigarette, just by going on record with their child that it is not something that you would accept.
Here are some statistics, directly from the Surgeon General’s report, you may want to share:
- Cigars, especially cigarette-sized cigars, are popular with youth. One out of five high school makes smokes cigars, and cigar use appears to be increasing among other groups.
- Use of multiple tobacco products – including cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco – is common among young people.
- Nearly nine out of 10 smokers started smoking by age 18.
- The younger a person is when he or she starts using tobacco, the more likely they’ll be addicted.
- Smoking reduces lung function and retards lung growth. Teens who smoke are not only short of breath today; they may end up as adults with lungs that will never grow to full capacity.
- Youth are sensitive to nicotine and can feel dependent earlier than adults.
- Youth who are exposed to images of smoking in movies are more likely to smoke. Those who get the most exposure to onscreen smoking are about twice as likely to begin smoking as those who get the least exposure. Images of smoking in movies have declined over the past decade; however, in 2010 nearly a third of top-grossing movies produced for children—those with ratings of G, PG, or PG-13— contained images of smoking.
Youth smoking is a battle we continue to fight. I appreciate your continued commitment to this important issue.