Educating Our Kids About Tobacco

child-smokingThe number of smoking related deaths should be the number one headline every day considering over 1,200 die.  And for each person who dies due to smoking, “at least two youth or young adults become regular smokers.”  Yet many are not aware of the high numbers.  The Centers for Disease Control states tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States.  Over 443,000 people will die prematurely each year and sadly the majority of those smokers started in their teen years.  In the U.S. nearly 4,000 kids under the age of 18 will try their first cigarette today, and many will go on to become regular smokers.

One of the ways tobacco use by students in Florida is monitored is through the Florida Youth Tobacco Survey (FYTS).  Last year the survey was conducted in 746 Florida public schools with 38,989 middle school (with a 77% overall response rate) and 36,439 high school students (with a 73% overall response rate) participating.   One part of the survey asked students if they had ever tried cigarettes at least once, if they had smoked a cigarette at least once during the past 30 days, and if they had smoked cigarettes on 20 or more of the past 30 days.

In answer to the first question, 13.0% or about 3,902 middle high students and 31.6% or about 8,405 high school students reported they had tried smoking a cigarette at least once.  The numbers dropped to 3.3% or about 990 middle school students, and 10.1% or about 2,686 high school students responding they had smoked at least once during the past 30 days.  It is the third group, those who smoked cigarettes on 20 or more of the past 30 days, that should have people really concerned;  0.8% or about 240 middle school students and 3.9% or about 1.037 high school students reported they were in this category.  The numbers may be lower than the other two groups, but these students are smoking more cigarettes more often, at least a pack a month.   While that may not seem substantial, according to the 2012 Surgeon General Report, “cigarette smoking by youth and young adults has immediate adverse health consequences, including addiction, and accelerates the development of chronic diseases across the full life course.”

That’s where we come in.  The Florida Statewide Tobacco Prevention course wants to educate teachers and guidance counselors so they in turn can educate their students about the dangers of tobacco use and how to resist the pressures of marketing and their peers.  Educators can take our course at no cost to them and receive 60 in-service credits towards recertification.  We even provide technical support to help with problems as well as lesson plans for each level.  The course is available 24/7 and is self-paced.  You still have until May 6, 2013 to register for this years course.

Too many of our kids start using tobacco before they are even legal age to purchase it.  We need to educate them about tobacco facts before the tobacco industry influences them with marketing.

Read more about “Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth & Young Adults,” Surgeon General Report 2012.

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