An occasional cigarette every now and then shouldn’t be a problem for a teen because you aren’t really a smoker, right? Wrong!
In this study researchers used data from the 2012 National Youth Tobacco Survey taken by 24,658 students in middle schools and high schools throughout the U.S. Most teens knew that heavy smoking can be harmful. And about 2 in every 3 students knew that smoking a few cigarettes every day can also be harmful. But when it came to occasional smoking that doesn’t happen every day, only about a third of the students knew that was also harmful. Of those teens who were intermittent smokers only “1 out of every 7 understood their habit was dangerous.”
The concern among researchers is that the intermittent teen smoker will become a heavier smoker over time. With teens the danger of becoming addicted to nicotine happens quicker than with adults because the teen brain is still developing.
The study also found that cigarette smoking among teens is dropping, the bad news is that at least 20% of teens use tobacco products with only 4% of these teens getting “their nicotine solely from cigarettes.” Those occasionally using cigarettes may be likely to use some other form of nicotine product such as hookahs, chewing tobacco, cigars and electronic cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes use among teens is a growing concern and use has doubled from what it was a year ago. Students don’t always wait until middle school to experiment with tobacco. According to Table 3 of the above survey, some had reported they had “first used a whole cigarette, cigar, or smokeless tobacco before age 11.”
Teens who use nicotine early in their lives become more addicted to it and have a more difficult time breaking free. Clearly, there is a need for tobacco prevention to start early and continue throughout a student’s school years as this study has shown.
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