The Surgeon General of the United States has released her new report today, Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults, and the news is not good for American youth regarding their growing epidemic of tobacco use. While our nation has made progress in reducing youth smoking rates, too many of our youth are still becoming addicted to tobacco despite all the warnings about the dangers of smoking and using tobacco products.
More than 600,000 middle school and 3 million high school students currently smoke cigarettes. One out of five male high school students smokes cigars, especially the cigarette-sized, flavored cigars. Smokeless tobacco use also appears to be increasing. Young users are using multiple tobacco products, and many new products on the market enable youth to use them at school or home without detection.
Growing bodies are not yet fully developed and tobacco use and nicotine addiction leads to serious health consequences. The younger the tobacco user, the more likely they will become dependent on nicotine. Even those who plan on quitting tobacco after a few years continue as adults because of their addiction. Lungs grow and develop as the child grows, but smoking slows lung development and can cause permanent breathing problems at an early age. Nicotine causes the heart rate and blood pressure to increase, causing cardiovascular damage in young smokers.
Although tobacco companies claim they do not market to our youth, they also know that 9 out of 10 smokers start by 18 and almost 99% of smokers start by the time they are 26 years old. Tobacco companies do all they can to grab the attention of our kids by spending more than $1 million an hour on advertising in the U.S. alone. Tobacco promotions that reduce the price make it affordable for the kids to purchase products. Adding candy and fruit flavoring to tobacco make the taste more palatable and the product more appealing. And spit-less and smokeless tobacco products allow youth to use tobacco without detection in almost any setting. And in this age of “thin is better,” tobacco companies know their products can appeal to young girls in their quest to be fashion-model thin.
Educating our kids about the dangers of tobacco needs to be an ongoing strategy to protect their health as youth, and their continuing health as adults. The Florida Statewide Tobacco Prevention course for teachers and guidance counselors helps educate our children about the dangers of tobacco, how to resist the pressures of marketing and peers and how to recognize issues related to it. In addition to educating our youth, it provides up to 60 teacher in-service credits towards recertification. You must have a current Florida DOE certificate in order to register. Our website is: tobaccopreventiontraining.org
The tobacco industry spends heavily to promote a consumer product which when used as directed kills its consumer. Let’s protect our youth from such a fate.