Curbing Underage Smoking Must Be Priority

The U.S. Surgeon General’s Office stated in a report released on March 8, 2012 that more work needs to be done to keep young Americans from lighting up. The report suggests that increasing bans and raising tobacco taxes will help in this measure.

The concern of the U.S. Surgeon General’s report shows that the number of teens who smoke is plateauing at 1 in 5. In prior decades that number was significantly higher and efforts to assist in curbing teens smoking was effective, but with the plateau in the decline, the Surgeon General’s office wants states to increase efforts to deter new smokers from ever starting.

Statistically, 99 percent of American’s who smoke start prior to the age of 26 with 80 percent lighting up before the age of 18. It is extremely important to prevent teens from trying cigarettes as the earlier a person begins to smoke, the greater the risk of a long-term addiction to nicotine. For teens who begin smoking, the health effects include reduced lung function, impaired lung growth, early heart disease, and other health problems including asthma.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin said, “In order to end this epidemic, we need to focus on where we can prevent it and where we can see the most effect, and that’s with young people. We want to make our next generation tobacco-free, and I think we can.

Since the Surgeon General’s report released in 1994, smoking has declined among high school students from 27.5 percent to 19.5 percent, but the rate of decline has substantially slowed. Also of great concern is the number of middle school students smoking – approximately 600,000 nationwide or 5.2 percent. According to the Surgeon General’s report, more than 3,800 people under the age of 18 smoke their first cigarette every day. More than 1,000 of those people become daily smokers.

The report recommended anti-smoking campaigns and increased restrictions under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s authority with the intention to prevent teens and young adults from using tobacco products. Benjamin wants to focus on addressing the issue to increase prevention. “I want to make sure we’re doing everything that we can to prevent kids from ever starting to smoke or use tobacco products.

Educate, educate, educate!!

It is important to educate the youth in your life on the dangers and risks of smoking from an early age. Starting to discuss the health risks in middle school and high school is too late. Take the initiative and talk to elementary students about how smoking is bad for their body and the ultimate risk. Help prevent them from ever facing a life riddled with addiction by communicating openly and honestly.

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