Tobacco use among young people still a problem
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is still a threat among adolescents. "Each day in the United States, more than 3,200 people younger than 18 years of age smoke their first cigarette, and an estimated 2,100 youth and young adults who have been occasional smokers become daily cigarette smokers," the CDC reports.
The report shows that smoking and smokeless tobacco, which is gaining popularity, use are initiated primarily during adolescence, and nearly nine out of 10 smokers started smoking by age 18.
"If smoking persists at the current rate among youth in this country, 5.6 million of today's Americans younger than 18 years of age are projected to die prematurely from a smoking-related illness. This represents about one in every 13 Americans aged 17 years or younger alive today."
The Unified Prevention! (UP!) Coalition for a Drug-Free Doña Ana County, an initiative of the Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico, is working to decrease the number of new smokers and help those who have already started quit.
"We are committed to tobacco education and decreasing the number of people who use tobacco," Kirsty Nichols, coalition coordinator, said. UP! Recently received a grant from the Office of Substance Abuse and Prevention to help with that commitment. The coalition will soon begin working on merchant education. While smoking is unhealthy, there are also a variety of consequences that come from adolescents smoking. Studies have shown using tobacco products cause low levels of academic achievement; low self-image or self-esteem; depression and aggressive behavior.
Smoking is not the only dangerous tobacco. Smokeless tobacco, chewing tobacco, water pipe (hookah) smoking, clove cigarettes and candy-flavored cigarettes are sometimes mistaken as less harmful or addictive, but each has negative health or addiction issues.
Parents of teens who already smoke can help by setting a good example and not smoking in front of their teen while trying to stop. It is also important to talk to the teen to find out why they started smoking (peer pressure, stress relief, weight loss, etc.). Once there is an understanding why the teen is smoking, parents can be better equipped to address smoking as a potential problem, as well as help the teen eventually stop smoking. Finally, parents can help their teen create a plan to stop smoking and help them achieve that goal.
To help a teen refrain from smoking, or using other forms of tobacco, parents can talk to their children about the dangers of tobacco, set rules for not using tobacco and help their children move confidently through peer pressure and stressful situations.
A Community that's Aware is a Community that Cares is submitted by Charlotte Tallman, media campaign coordinator for the Unified Prevention! (UP!) Coalition for a Drug-Free Doña Ana County, an initiative of the Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico. For more information on the coalition, visit www.unifiedprevention.com or call Kirsty Nichols, UP! coordinator at 575.521.4794.