By Dr. John Maddox, Pediatrician
Pentucket Medical/ Haverhill
A recent personal experience with the sadness and shock of suicide weighs on my mind these days. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in the US, among ages 15-24. Rates have increased by 41% over the past 17 years. Males have a rate three times higher than females. Dismal statistics like these can sometimes be numbing, which discourages the hopeful proactive energy we need to bring, in order to prevent future tragedy.
When listening carefully to people who have considered suicide, one element that comes up invariably is psychological pain. The pain of loneliness or unworthiness can be as real and unbearable as physical pain. We humans are built for connectedness: an antidote to isolation. The time and energy invested in relationships reinforces that each of our days matter. We are grateful for those who help us, and we take joy in the opportunity to help others.
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
more than 50% of all teens report having had at least 1 drink by 15 years old
more than 70% of all teens report having had at least 1 drink by 18 years old
more teens use alcohol than smoke
teens who start drinking before age 15 are 5 times more likely to develop alcohol dependence/abuse than those who begin drinking after age 21
about 5,000 kids under age 21 die every year as a result of under-aged drinking
binge drinking, consuming many drinks in a short period of time, occurs in almost 20% of boys age 15 and girls age 16-17
teens who drink are more likely to be victims of physical or sexual assault than their peers who do not drink
Why teens drink…
teens, as they mature, often try to assert their independence and take risks and do not realize or understand the consequences of their choices and actions
peer pressure, to fit in
to feel good, reduce stress, to relax
easy access: most teens who drink get it from their home
drinking often portrayed in the media as fun, relaxing, entertaining, sexy
poor self esteem, depression, anger
Ways parents can prevent under-aged drinking…
make it harder for teens to obtain it (do not let them have ANY access in home)
drink responsibly if you, as apparent do drink in front of your teen
TALK to your teen about the dangers of alcohol
KNOW your teen’s friends, and their families
have dinners together and talk about how life is going—BE involved in your teen’s life!
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