Did you know that smoking tops the list of preventable causes of death and disease in the US? Smoking has been one of the darkest evils, especially of teenage life. Here is an article on teenage smoking statistics in the US.
Did you know that more than 80% of adult smokers started out as teenage smokers, even before they turned 18? Around 3,450 kids aged between 12 and 17 years try smoking for the first time, every single day. That’s well over 100,000 children a month, or more than 1,200,000 children a year. You might think this is no big deal, that they are only ‘trying it out’; they are not going to become addicts! But, I am afraid you are wrong, for at least a third of all the kids who ever try smoking (even one or two puffs), become regular, daily smokers before they pass out of school. You might still think it is okay, that the situation is still under control, it is ‘just a phase’, kids grow out of it, it is all a result of peer pressure, my son/daughter will grow out of it and become more serious about his/her life in school. You might think they will eventually give up and quit. But did you know that even as you are reading this article, three out of four high school daily smokers have already tried to quit and failed?
There are a lot of reasons why teenagers ‘try’ smoking. As enlisted by Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some of the common factors fueling smoking by teenagers are –
- Belonging to a low socioeconomic stratum
- Peer pressure
- Smoking siblings (smoking by elder siblings is held as approval for their own smoking)
- Inability to resist tobacco use influences
- Smoking parents or guardians
- Lack of support or involvement on behalf of parents with respect to smoking
- Having easy access to tobacco products
- A belief/idea/concept that it is okay to smoke tobacco
- Academic failures/poor academic performance
- Inferiority complex and/or low self-esteem
- Aggression (e.g., fighting, carrying weapons)
Did you notice the sequence of the causes? The second most common cause is smoking peers and family members, especially siblings. Up next is lack of involvement on parents’ behalf and smoking parents. Ease of access to tobacco products is something we have little control over. But definitely the factors enlisted prior to accessibility are something we have 100% control over. Wake up.
Facts and Figures
Here is a summary of the figures presented by Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in their Youth and Tobacco Use Factsheet.
|High SchoolGrades 9 to 12|
|Total Smoking Students||17.2|
|Female Smoking Students||14.8|
|Male Smoking Students||19.6|
|Middle SchoolGrades 6 to 8|
|Total Smoking Students||5.2|
|Female Smoking Students||4.7|
|Male Smoking Students||5.6|
This data was collected by means of “self-administered, pencil and paper questionnaire in a classroom setting”, from 22,679 students in 205 schools across the US, who agreed to participate in the survey. Now just pause for a moment and think – out of 222 randomly selected schools, only 205 agreed to participate; and out of 24,666 students, only 22,679 agreed to participate. So there is a huge number of students out there who weren’t involved in this. Who knows how many of them are smokers? Then again, of the 22,679 who participated, who knows how many were truthful? In spite of all this, the figures are alarming.
Coming of Age?
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids, and couple other institutes have elicit that the age at which a person first tries smoking has a major effect on whether the person gets addicted to smoking or not. The earlier a kid tries smoking, the more likely he/she is to become a regular. This has a lot to do with the mind-frame of teenagers. The mind of a teenager is like wet clay; even the slightest of forces, even the smallest of things can leave a permanent impact that can last a lifetime. To add to this fragile mindset is the fact that addiction rate for smoking is very, very high; in fact it is higher than that of alcohol, or even illicit drugs like marijuana or cocaine. (Addiction rate is determined by comparing ratio between the number of first-timers/persons who try an illicit substance with regular substance abusers.)
Smoking and Drug Abuse
You might think smoking a cigarette is okay, that it is ‘better’ than substance abuse or smoking cocaine, marijuana and other illicit drugs. Common attitude of teenagers is, “At least I am not doing all that“. Well, here is some news for you. Did you know that a person who starts smoking as a teenager is more likely to try an illicit drug in his/her lifetime? To be precise, kids who start smoking before the age of 15 are three times more likely to try marijuana and four times more likely to try cocaine. And more than half the regular smokers who started out as teenagers end up trying an illicit drug at least once in their lifetime. One in every 16 high school seniors is using marijuana on a daily or near-daily basis. Half of 2010 high school seniors have tried an illicit drug, and more than a third have used an illicit drug on one or more occasions in the last 12 months, according to research carried out by Monitoring The Future.
Smoking and its Repercussions
Teenage tobacco use has been linked to three major health risk behavior.
High-risk sexual behavior
Teenage pregnancy is not something new. In the year 2009 alone, more than 400,000 teens between the ages of 15 and 19 gave birth to children in the United States. The teen birth rate in the US continues to be higher than that in other developed countries. And what is the future of such kids, born to teenaged mothers? To look at it in another way, every single year, more than 400,000 children are born in circumstances that will force them on to the wrong path.
Use of alcohol
It has been established that teenage smokers are more prone to try alcohol than non-smokers. Alcoholism becomes an exceptionally hard habit to break when coupled with smoking. It has also been observed that many adult alcoholics started out as teen smokers. One alcoholic in the family can make the institutions of ‘home’ and ‘family’ crumble and meet the dust.
Use of other drugs
Smoking is often a ‘warm-up’ before teenagers indulge in substance abuse. According to statistics published by United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), almost 65% of 12th-graders who have tried marijuana and cigarettes both, tried cigarettes first and then marijuana. This figure is even more alarming for cocaine and cigarette users – almost 98% had tried cigarettes before cocaine.
Smoking and Adult Life
Every year, tobacco can be held responsible for taking 5 million lives all over the world. Going at the current rate, this number will reach 8 million by the year 2030. In the US alone, one in every five annual deaths can be attributed to tobacco. Almost a fifth of the American population comprises adult smokers, who started out as teenage smokers. Add to that the fact that smokers die more than a decade earlier, as compared to non-smokers. Think of all the things you want to do in life; think of all the things you wish to see your child accomplish in his/her life; and now think – can you afford wasting those precious 10 years?
The statistics related to quitting smoking are those that saddened me the most. Did you know that as many as 70% smokers want to quit completely? However, for various reasons on part of the smokers and the people around them, they are unable to. This is an extremely sad situation that we find ourselves and people around us in. You know something is bad for you, you know it is doing you no good, and still there is nothing good enough you can do to change it. How frustrating and depressing must this helplessness be? And to think of it, all of this started because the person ‘simply wanted to try it out’.
Many Failed; But You CAN Succeed
Teenage smoking is one of the worst things you can willfully subject yourself too. It wasn’t, isn’t and will never be a good idea. I have many people around me who smoke – colleagues, friends. Often it has happened that, a new acquaintance has lit up a smoke and waited for me to ask for a puff. Once they realize I am not asking, they offer me a cigarette. I say, “I don’t smoke”; and they can’t believe me. At first they laugh it off, then when they see I am serious, they wonder how! Truth be told, it is quite simple – I never tried smoking. But I am proud to say I have been able to make many people try to quit. Some are on their way to becoming non-smokers.
The best step towards quitting smoking is to first accept that you have a problem you want to get rid of. The next best step is to call on your family members to help you. Finally, seek help outside your family. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Monitoring the Future, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids, The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), all can be said to have one motto – ‘We Want To Help’. These are not tricksters; they are not people out there for profit or personal gains. Institutes like these represent a body of personnel genuinely dedicated to free teenagers from smoking. Take your first step today, and butt it out.