School is out in some areas of the country, including here in Palm Beach County, Florida. Younger kids will need supervision during those long summer days. While older kids many not need the constant hovering, they still need guidance from parents. You may have talked to your younger kids about being safe and about “stranger danger.” You may have talked to your older kids about drugs and alcohol use as well as discussed what not to do on social media sites. Did you talk to your child about tobacco? You may assume your child knows that using tobacco is bad for him or her, but unless you actually “teach” your child about the dangers, they may never know. Many young children don’t understand the addictive nature of tobacco and nicotine, and believe that diseases and illnesses from using tobacco only happen to older people after a lifetime of use.
First of all, there is no safe form of tobacco, whether it is cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, hookah, cigars or dissolvable tobacco. Tobacco contains nicotine which causes addiction to the product, as well as other chemicals that cause health problems.
Cigarettes contain over 599 ingredients such as arsenic, carbon monoxide, ammonia, and formaldehyde, and when you light it the heat produces over 4,000 chemical compounds. Some of the chemicals are carcinogens which are substances that can cause cancer. There are over 60 carcinogens in cigarettes. Click here to see the list of ingredients in cigarettes
Many kids think smokeless tobacco is safer than cigarettes because it doesn’t affect their lungs like smoking, but it is not a safe substitute for cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco is put in the mouth and the juices are either spit out or swallowed. According to the National Cancer Institute site, there are at least 28 chemicals in smokeless tobacco that cause cancer. Using smokeless tobacco can increase cavities and cause recession of the gums, as well as cause gum disease. Users can also get precancerous lesions in the soft tissue of the mouth from using smokeless tobacco. Sean Marcee, pictured above, was a track star at his high school. He started using chewing tobacco at age 12 and died at age 19 from cancer attributed to his tobacco use. Read more about Sean Marcee here. Click here for more information on smokeless tobacco.
You won’t want your teen sitting around in an enclosed room with burning charcoal, but that is exactly what happens when they go to a hookah bar. Hookah smoking is gaining popularity with older, college-aged students who think the water cooled tobacco smoke is less harmful than smoking cigarettes. An hour long smoking session “involves inhaling 100-200 times the volume of smoke inhaled from a single cigarette.” And smokers are still exposed to the cancer-causing chemicals and carbon monoxide like cigarettes produce. By sharing a hookah, smokers may be also exposed to infectious diseases, such as herpes, tuberculosis and hepatitis. Click here for more information on hookahs by the CDC.
Cigarette smoking has decreased in the U.S. among teens, but many are turning to smoking large cigars, cigarillos and little cigars instead because they are easy to purchase and inexpensive. While a cigarette normally contains less than 1 gm of tobacco, a large cigar can contain between 5 and 20 gms of tobacco and a cigarello about 3 gms. The word “cigarillo” actually means little cigar. It typically is larger than a cigarette but smaller than a large cigar, and is wrapped in tobacco leaf. A little cigar is the size of a cigarette and may or may not be filtered. The products pictured come in flavors such as blueberry, peach and grape. Cigars are not safer than cigarettes, and because they are fermented they may have a higher concentration of cancer-causing nitrosamines. Cigars also contain more tar and have a higher concentration of toxins than cigarette smoke. Although most cigar smokers don’t inhale, they can still absorb nicotine through the lining of their mouth. “A single cigar can potentially provide as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.” Also, kids are taking the tobacco out of the flavored cigars and replacing it with marijuana which is referred to as a “blunt.” The flavoring in the cigar masks the odor of the burning marijuana. It might not just be a cigar they are sharing. Information on blunts is readily available on the web. Click to read more about cigar smoking on the National Cancer Institute site.
Dissolvable products contain small amounts of tobacco and nicotine. The products currently on the market may look like sticks, breath strips and small breath mints, and they are unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products that contains nicotine such as cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, dissolvable tobacco products and even nicotine gum, could poison a child. Click here to read more about dissolvable tobacco and here to read about nicotine poisoning.
Over 3,800 kids under 18 start smoking every day, according to the Surgeon General’s 2012 report. While it is illegal in the U.S. for a person under 18 to purchase tobacco products and use them (purchase age is 19 in four states and areas of NY), children are still able to get tobacco products from their families and older friends. You can’t be next to your child all day long, but you can protect them from the dangers of using tobacco by teaching them what they need to know.
Be safe, and have a great summer vacation.