Deaths caused by smoking have
reached epidemic proportions. In the United States alone, 430,000 people die
annually die from smoking-related illnesses such as cancers and lung disease. The Centers For Disease Control states that
around 23 percent of teens smoke cigarettes. Cigarettes pose not only a health
risk with both long and short-term use but are highly addictive. The American
Heart Association states that nicotine addiction is one of the hardest
addictions to break. Teens start smoking for several reasons but are generally
introduced to it through peers. Understanding some of the problems teens
smokers face will allow you to help yourself or others facing this addiction
One of the biggest reasons smoking is so frowned upon is because it can
cause a myriad of health problems both short and long term. The American Cancer
Society states that in the short term, smoking can interfere with proper
breathing techniques and can lead to reduced lung function. It can also make
respiratory illnesses worse and cause coughing and shortness of breath. It can
reduce physical fitness levels which is detrimental to teens who engage in
sports and other physical activities daily. Long term tobacco use can cause
heart disease, chronic lung problems, vision problems and gum disease.
Nicotine addiction is why teens keep grabbing the next cigarette. The
American Heart Association states that nicotine produces changes in the brain
that form its addictive qualities. When a teen takes his first puff, his body
instantly responds internally. Nicotine targets the area of the brain that
produces dopamine a mood-altering neurotransmitter and necrohormone that
produces an emotional response including pleasure. The other half of the
addiction is the withdrawal from nicotine. Withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety,
impatience, depression and restlessness can be so overwhelming, teens
reluctantly give in, causing the addictive cycle to continue.
Health care advocates, concerned
about tobacco-related deaths and illnesses, have worked tirelessly to
discourage cigarette smoking in the United States through education campaigns
that warn the public about the potential health dangers of tobacco use. A
particular target for these antismoking messages is teen smokers. According to
2016 data collected by the American Cancer Society, teen smoking rates have
gradually decreased since their rapid rise throughout the 1980s and most of the
1990s. Despite this encouraging decrease in the number of teen smokers,
however, approximately three thousand teens still start smoking each day.
One-third of these teens will die prematurely of a smoking-related disease.
One hotly debated issue in the
effort to prevent teen smoking is the role that tobacco industry advertisements
play in influencing teens’ decisions to begin smoking. Health care professionals
view the tobacco industry often referred to as
Big Tobacco as a rich, adversarial force to be reckoned with. In 2002,
for example, the United States spent approximately $800 million on various
tobacco-control initiatives, including antismoking campaigns aimed at teen
smokers. Big Tobacco, however, spent nearly $8 billion on tobacco marketing.
Such aggressive tobacco marketing is worrisome to those working to prevent teen
smoking, since many tobacco advertisements often reach a youth-oriented
As evidence of tobacco
advertisements’ negative impact on American youths, antismoking groups often
point to R.J. Reynolds’s Joe Camel advertising campaign, which debuted in 1988.
Joe Camel was a cool, sunglass sporting, leather-jacket-wearing cartoon
character featured on billboards and in magazine ads. According to one 1991
study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Joe Camel
was as easily recognized by six-year-olds as Mickey Mouse. It was not long
before this highly recognizable figure began to attract young smokers. By 1995,
13.3 percent of teen smokers smoked Camel cigarettes, a fact that led
antismoking groups to accuse R.J. Reynolds of marketing tobacco specifically to
Teen Help states that each day 6,000 children under 18 begin smoking
each day. While many teens smoke, it is illegal for them to purchase tobacco in
most states. Many teens that get caught smoking on public property, especially
school, increase their risk for getting expelled and losing their rights as a
student. The cost of teen smoking may be higher than those over 18. While on
average a pack of cigarettes costs around $6 a pack as of 2017, teens may pay
adults extra money to obtain tobacco.
Many teens turn to smokeless tobacco as an alternative to cigarettes.
This alternative can be more dangerous. According to Kids Health,
chewing tobacco can cause a variety of troubling side effects such as gum
disease and receding gums, bleeding and cracked lips and gums, an increase in
blood pressure and heart rate, arrhythmias and mouth cancer. Teens face the
same discipline from school districts for possession of smokeless tobacco as cigarettes.
Teens who smoke in front
of other teens not only put themselves in harm’s way, they can also harm the
health of others. The Mayo Clinic states that secondhand smoke contains a large
amount of chemicals that are released into the air from a cigarette such as
nickel, cyanide, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde. These toxins can enter
someone else’s lungs and reduce her oxygen levels, irritate her lungs and
eventually lead to heart disease, lung disease and cancer. Passing on
secondhand smoke to an infant can cause low birth weight, infection and sudden
infant death syndrome.
Laws designed to prevent
teens from acquiring cigarettes have failed to prevent teen smoking. In
addition, focusing on such laws often has the effect of blaming teens, their
friends, and their parents for teen smoking and may lead to more laws
criminalizing teens for cigarette possession. The tobacco industry benefits
from this approach to teen smoking prevention because it diverts attention away
from its own marketing practices. Therefore, public health practitioners should
abandon these ineffective preventative strategies by removing them from
recommendations for comprehensive tobacco control policy. Instead, tobacco
control advocates should pursue strategies with proven success rates. These
include encouraging smoke-free workplaces and homes, raising taxes on cigarette
sales, and increasing antismoking media campaigns and messages about the
dangers of secondhand smoke.
solution could be to reduce the public image of smoking. Ads in magazines are
constantly promoting smoking. If we could stop the ads then teens would
no longer get the message and it would no longer appeal to their self-image.
Names of cigarettes are constantly printed on all types of clothing apparel
wearing this clothing promotes cigarettes and appeals to the teen age eye.
Most all teenagers watch some form of a movie or television show. Some
teens have idols that they look up to and if their idol smokes in a movie the
teen thinks they should do it also. If we ban smoking on TV and movies then
kids won’t want to smoke because they see the actors doing it.
As you can see there are
many benefits to reducing cigarette advertising. Another solution would be to
increases the education about smoking. After school programs that teach about
smoking should be held. Teens would then know what they are putting in their
mouth when they pick up a cigarette. It would also teach them about all the
different diseases that you can get from smoking. Also, a meeting of parents
and students should be called.
tobacco, clove cigarettes kreteks and candy-flavored cigarettes bidis are
sometimes mistaken as less harmful or addictive than are traditional
cigarettes. Teens also often think that water pipe hookah smoking is safe.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Kreteks, bidis and hookahs all carry
health risks. Electronic cigarettes are battery-operated devices designed to
look like regular tobacco cigarettes. In an electronic cigarette, an atomizer
heats a liquid containing nicotine, turning it into a vapor that can be inhaled
and creating a vapor cloud that resembles cigarette smoke.
claim that electronic cigarettes are a safe alternative to conventional
cigarettes but there are safety concerns about potentially harmful chemicals
being inhaled during use. Electronic cigarettes can get teens hooked on nicotine,
too. Research also suggests that teens who have used electronic cigarettes are
more likely to try other forms of smoking within the following year than are
those who have never used electronic cigarettes.
The American Legacy Foundation, a nonprofit
antismoking organization, has created the “truth” campaign, which highlights
alleged wrongdoings by the tobacco industry and works to counter tobacco
marketing efforts. This campaign increases youths’ antitobacco sentiments and
reduces teen smoking. On the other hand, Philip Morris, a large tobacco
company, produces the “Think. Don’t Smoke.” campaign, which takes focus away
from the tobacco industry by simply offering youths directives not to smoke.
These ads have a counterproductive effect on their teen audience. Youths
exposed to the “Think. Don’t Smoke.” campaign ads actually report an increased
openness to smoking. These results suggest that ads targeting the tobacco
industry are more effective than messages that simply tell teens to say “no.”
School-based tobacco prevention
programs are also part of state tobacco control programs. The effectiveness of
school-based programs varies. They are most effective when the message is
delivered repeatedly and is taken as seriously and promoted as powerfully as
are other forms of drug abuse education. Properly implemented school programs
can, however, lower smoking prevalence from 25% to 60%. These programs have
been evaluated repeatedly, and in 2017 CDC Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention produced a set of guidelines for school-based programs. States will
want to take care in implementing school-based programs, however, because they
can consume considerable resources to little effect; a 2017 meta-analysis
showed only a modest impact for most programs. The 2017 Institute of Medicine
report Growing Up Tobacco Free noted the variable results of school-based
programs but concluded that they should be part of a comprehensive tobacco
control strategy because educating school-age children and adolescents about
the consequences of tobacco use is clearly important to sustain a smoke-free
We need to help clarify
the addictive nature of nicotine, review the overall dangers of tobacco usage,
and, offer some strategies for coping with the peer pressures for tobacco usage
faced by our children. If you are involved with schools or PTA groups,
please raise the issue of educating teens regarding the truth about smoking and