The number of smokers is decreasing among the general population, but 3,000 teenagers each day in the United States still light up. Here are a few important facts about the teen smoking epidemic in the United States:
1. 4,000 kids under the age of eighteen try smoking each year, and 1,000 of those kids start smoking regularly.
2. Teenagers under the age of 18 purchase 1.5 million packs of cigarettes each year.
3. People who start smoking as teenagers die, on average, 13 to 14 years earlier than those who do not smoke.
4. According to recent studies, teenagers who smoke are three times more likely to use alcohol.
5. Because smokers typically start the habit during their teenage years, advertisers gear their advertisements towards teenagers and young adults by making smoking look like a pleasure of adulthood. They also emphasize feelings of freedom and rebellion for teens.
6. Teens who are involved in sports and after school activities have lower rates of tobacco and alcohol use.
What Can Parents Do to Stop Teen Smoking?
- Keep a close eye on your child and look for signs, such as the smell of cigarette smoke.
- A lot of teenage smokers start due to peer pressure. Get to know your child’s friends so you can ensure they will be a positive influence.
- Talk to your teen and keep an open dialogue so they feel comfortable discussing it with you.
Sources: American Lung Association, Centers for Disease Control and Foundation for a Smoke Free America
“You should stop smoking.”
A study a few years ago showed that surprisingly few smokers actually hear those words from their doctor. We can speculate that their doctors assume “everybody knows that,” or expect a low success rate for the time spent, or wishfully think all smokers are already trying to quit. Well, it’s pretty darned hard to quit even knowing the dangers. Nicotine is an extremely addictive drug that triggers withdrawal discomforts even after a night’s abstinence. A cigarette delivers nicotine powerfully and directly to the lung circulation and to the brain relieving withdrawal and creating lots of powerful positive associations.
So what can a smoker do to help themselves?
Set a quit date. Most people who smoke may intend to quit “sometime” but never get around to it. Committing to a date can remove some of the emotion and anxiety surrounding stopping. Nicotine replacement can be started on the quit day. Don’t worry about continuing addiction; nicotine replacement methods enter the circulation much more slowly than cigarette smoke and are not as addictive.
Keep a positive attitude.
It is important to create a self image as a healthy nonsmoker. Starting an exercise program may help by making cessation efforts part of training (and may help prevent unwanted weight gain.) Remember that many folks smoke when anxious so the guilt about smoking may trigger the urge to light up.
Change your routine.
Figure out circumstances where you habitually smoke and do something different:
- Drink tea instead of coffee.
- Avoid alcoholic drinks.
- Go for a walk instead of coffee break.
- Get a new car!
Beware of “incremental” misperception of risk.
One cigarette may not seem harmful but sustains the habit. Once you are quit, even one cigarette triggers the return of addiction. Don’t be fooled by the inner voice of habit into making exceptions “just this once”.
With a little determination and strategy you may not need to hear those four little words ever again!
What is an electronic cigarette?
- Designed by Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik in 2003
- Electronic device that simulates the act of smoking a real tobacco cigarette by producing an inhaled vapor offering the “freedom to smoke anywhere”
- Gives the appearance, physical sensation, and even flavor of a real cigarette
How does it work?
- User inhales on the mouthpiece, triggering the liquid to be heated, and the atomizer turns the liquid into a vapor
- The vapor is inhaled by the user, which gives the effect of smoking a real cigarette
- Users are “vaping,” not smoking
What’s the attraction?
- Price of cigarettes are past $5.00, and a major factor in people’s choice to switch to change to e-cig is that economical advantage.
- The cartridge to refill an e-cig is roughly $3.00 apiece and can last three to five times as long as a traditional pack of cigarettes.
- Many estimates say an e-cigarette habit costs one-third as much as a smoking habit.
- One benefit is also that you are in charge of how much you smoke. You don’t have to smoke the entire cigarette in one sitting, you can take one or two puffs and be done.
What do people see in them?
- No burning tobacco
- No CO2 in your lungs; no secondhand smoke
- Adjust the amount of nicotine
- More economical (user can take as many “hits” as desired and need not smoke the entire thing in one sitting)
Attraction to youth:
- The economic reason above appeals to high-schoolers
- Attractive for youth to smoke however much they want
- Students MAY feel there is a lower risk of addiction
- No smoke smell and feeling in lungs
- Easy to buy online or in a mall and come in flavors ranging from chocolate to bubble gum; you can buy them in pink, gold, or blue
- Presumption of safety because it is not burning tobacco, even though its consequences are not known
The negative aspects of e-cigarettes
After the FDA analyzed brands, it found diethylene glycol and other cancer-causing agents in some samples
The nicotine cartridges emit an inconsistent amount of nicotineLike secondhand smoke, particles from the vapor can land on surfaces like clothing, furniture, and carpets and have the same effect as secondhand smoke
- For example, if you are using a low-strength nicotine cartridge, you may actually receive the same amount as a higher dose
The FDA remains concerned about how e-cigs are marketed and about how they are encouraging youth tobacco use
Essentially no data on use as cessation strategy (J Med Case Rep 2011; 5:585) n=3
Harm-reduction data limited (BMC Public Health 2011; 11:786) n=40
May be harmful to public health.
Smokers have been advised by the FDA not to use them.
E-cigs promote increased airway resistance after five minutes of use
More research is needed on the cost/benefit equation of these products and the appropriate level and type of regulation for them. The harms have tended thus far to be overstated relative to the potential benefits.
Concern over repeated inhalation of propylene glycol.
Concern that e-cigarettes may promote continued smoking by allowing smokers to cope with no-smoking environments is countered by the observation that most smokers use these products to try to quit and their use appears to enhance quitting motivation.
Concerns over low nicotine delivery are countered by evidence that the products provide significant craving reduction despite this in some cases; and e-cigarettes may help reduce toxin exposure to nonsmokers.
E-cigarettes are a new trend on high school campuses.
To Vape or Not To Vape?
- Although “vaping” might be safer than smoking, e-cigarettes are definitely not healthy.
- E-cigarettes might work as a strategy to quit smoking, similar to nicotine replacement, like the Nicotrol inhaler. If you try it, commit to short-term use.
- If you are interested in quitting smoking, try evidence-based treatments such as counseling and nicotine replacements like a patch or gum, rather than e-cigarettes.
- It may be called an e-cigarette, but it’s still a cigarette!