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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Tobacco Products

More Youth Use Tobacco Than You May Think

August 16, 2012

Picture your child. He eats his broccoli—after some urging, of course—and drinks milk daily, gets ten hours of sleep, and couldn’t be more excited about the recent goals he scored for his soccer team.  Now picture your child using a tobacco product.

Teen boy and girl sit on stoop staring aheadUnfortunately, this isn’t as rare as you might think. Today, more than 600,000 middle school students and 3 million high school students smoke cigarettes.1 Use of multiple tobacco products—including cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco—is common among young people.1  And the instant a child begins using a tobacco product, their health declines greatly.

Earlier this year, U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin released an alarming new report on youth tobacco use: Preventing Tobacco Use among Youth and Young Adults. Just consider some of the most critical findings on current tobacco use by youth.

 

Youth Tobacco Use
  • Each day more than 3,600 kids under age 18 smoke their first cigarette. That’s over 1.3 million youth a year.2
  • Nearly 9 out of 10 adult daily smokers used their first cigarette by age 18 (88.2%). Youth and young adults who reach the age of 26 without ever smoking a cigarette will most likely never become regular smokers.3
  • Every day, more than 1,200 people in this country die from smoking-related causes. For each of those deaths, at least two youth or young adults become regular smokers each day.4
  • Because most high school smokers are not able to break free from the powerful, addicting effects of nicotine, about three out of four will smoke in adulthood. Among those who persist in smoking, one third will die about 13 years earlier than their nonsmoking peers.5

 

The percentage of youth who smoke went down every year between 1997 and 2003. But since then, the decrease in teen smoking has slowed and the use of some forms of tobacco by youth has leveled out.6 Clearly, there is much more work to be done.

 

Health Effects of Tobacco Use on Youth

In the minds of most teenagers, nothing can hurt them. When it comes to tobacco, they might believe they can easily stop using it whenever they want. But in reality, youth are sensitive to nicotine. The younger they are when they begin using tobacco, the more likely they are to become addicted to nicotine, and the more heavily addicted they will become.7

That addiction to nicotine not only extends that young person’s use of tobacco but can lead to health consequences. Even young adults under age 30 who started smoking in their teens and early twenties can develop smoking related health problems8, such as:

  • Early cardiovascular disease.8
  • Smaller lungs that don’t function normally.8
  • Wheezing that can lead to a diagnosis of asthma.8
  • DNA damage that can cause cancer almost anywhere in the body.8 Tobacco smoke contains about 70 chemicals that can cause cancer. It’s no surprise, then, that smoking causes about one in three of all cancer deaths in the United States.9

 

What Can You Do?

Stopping your kids from starting tobacco use can be a daunting task, but it’s not impossible—if we all do our part. The first step is being informed. You have accomplished that just by reading this article and taking the Youth and Tobacco quiz. Now it’s important you make time to talk with your children about the dangers of tobacco. 

 

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More Information

 

 

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FDA Youth Tobacco Quiz Widget Widget.
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References

1-U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: Fact Sheet Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office of Smoking and Health, 2012

2-U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A Report of the Surgeon General: Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: Consumer Booklet. Page 2. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office of Smoking and Health, 2012

3-U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults Page 8. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office of Smoking and Health, 2012

4-U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: Fact Sheet Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office of Smoking and Health, 2012

5,6,7- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A Report of the Surgeon General: Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: Consumer Booklet. Page 2,4. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office of Smoking and Health, 2012

8-U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A Report of the Surgeon General: Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: Consumer Booklet. Page 3. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office of Smoking and Health, 2012

9-U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A Report of the Surgeon General: Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: Consumer Booklet. Page 3. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office of Smoking and Health, 2012