Why care about child and teen tobacco use?
Reflect on these youth nicotine use facts:
- 82% of adults who ever smoked a cigarette had their first cigarette by their 18th birthday. More than half became regular smokers by that time.
- Each day, 3,200 American youngsters smoke their first cigarette and 2,100 become daily smokers. Of these children and teens, roughly 1 in 3 will die prematurely from a smoking-related disease.
- Roughly 1 in 4 high school students are current tobacco users (used a tobacco product at least once in the last 30 days).
- While current cigarette smoking among middle school and high school youth declined between 2000 and 2011, between 2011 and 2012 electronic cigarette use doubled among middle and high school students, while hookah use increased among high school students. After modest declines, smokeless tobacco use between 2012 and 2013 remained unchanged.
- Although only 5% of daily smokers surveyed in high school said they would definitely be smoking five years later, close to 75% were actually smoking 7 to 9 years later.
- 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.
- Of 1,000 20-year-olds who continue to smoke, 6 will die prematurely from homicide, 12 from car accidents, and 500 from smoking.
With all that we know about the dangers of smoking, why do so many adolescents still start smoking every day? Early experimentation with cigarettes and other nicotine containing products historically has lead to a lifelong nicotine addiction and thus to the use of products that are deadly, so deadly in fact that cigarettes have been deemed the most preventable cause of premature death in almost all developed nations.
Many who don't die from cigarettes will still become diseased, impaired or crippled from them. Not only are cigarettes deadly, they're expensive, too. Children taking up smoking today are likely to spend their entire life dependent upon a product that will end up costing them tens of thousands of dollars, as well as their health and their lives. Again though, children are still taking up smoking in large numbers.
What can be done to help prevent children and teenagers from developing a lifelong addiction to nicotine? The above articles explore the reasons why so many children and adolescents take up smoking each year. They offer practical advice on what public health officials can do to help to reverse these trends. They also explain how teachers and school administrators can protect their students, as well as what parents can do to help their children avoid becoming addicted.