High schools are holding graduation ceremonies here in Palm Beach County. Kids still in school are finishing up projects and getting ready to take their end of school tests. Younger kids in elementary school are holding field days and end of year picnics. And through it all, parents are telling their children how proud they are of a job well done. Before your kids run off to have a great summer, sit down with them and discuss summer safety, including the dangers of tobacco.
Cigarettes contain more than just tobacco rolled in paper. Almost 600 ingredients go into making a single cigarette. When burned, those ingredients turn into over 7000 chemicals, with at least 250 chemicals know to be harmful, and about 69 that can cause cancer. Both smokers and nonsmokers breathing in cigarette smoke inhale these toxic, harmful chemicals.
According to the 2012 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey (FYTS), 31.6% of high school students and 13.0% of middle school students had tried smoking a cigarette at least once. And 3.9% of high school students, and 0.8% of middle school students said they smoked cigarettes on 20 or more of the past 30 days.
One of the latest trends for under-aged kids is to smoke cigars. Many kids believe that cigars are safer because you technically don’t inhale like cigarettes, and they come in a variety of flavors. But all cigars contain nicotine. In fact, one large cigar can contain the nicotine equivalent of several cigarettes. According to the Mayo Clinic, it can also “increase the risk of cancers of the mouth, lip, tongue, throat, esophagus, larynx and lung.” The cigar smoke also contains the same toxic chemicals as cigarette smoke. The FYTS states that 8.6% of middle school students and 25.1% of high school students smoked cigars at least once, and that 0.8% of middle and 2.1% of high school students smoked cigars on 20 or more of the past 30 days.
Another popular form of tobacco is smokeless tobacco. The kids consider it safer that smoking because you don’t ignite the tobacco and smoke it. Also known as chew, dip or spit tobacco, the product is put into the mouth between the gum and cheek and the juices are spit out. Snus, another form of smokeless tobacco, is a small tobacco-filled, tea-bag type pouch that is placed into the mouth and the juices are swallowed. Smokeless tobacco contains nicotine, no matter the form, and contains at least 28 cancer-causing chemicals. The FYTS reported 4.3% of middle and 10.8% of high school students had tried using smokeless tobacco at least once. And 0.8% of middle and 2.4% of high school students used smokeless tobacco on 20 or more of the past 30 days.
While you may not think the percentages of youth tobacco users are high, the legal age to purchase tobacco products is 18 which means the students are getting tobacco illegally from their friends, older siblings, or taking it from their parents. All forms of tobacco contain nicotine, and there is no safe form of tobacco. Another thing you need to explain to your kids is that tobacco is the leading cause of preventable illness and death in the U.S. According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, it is “the only legal product sold in the United States that, when used according to the manufacturer’s instructions, is highly addictive and kills a high percentage of its regular users.”
As a parent you cannot just assume your kids know that tobacco is dangerous. Talk to them early and often about tobacco, and let them know that it is a danger product. If they know you don’t approve of tobacco use, they are more likely not to use the product. They are seeking your guidance and want to make you proud.
Happy children leaving school,
Now that summer’s here.
No more early morning hours, teachers, quizzes,
No more state testing fears.
Sleeping in, playing outside late,
Long days in when it pours.
One week after school lets out,
And you’ll hear, “Oh, I’m bored.”
Happy and safe summer to all our teachers, students, staff and parents.