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Why Do Teens Smoke and How Can it be Prevented?


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Preventing more teens taking up smoking is crucial to reducing the problems associated with smoking in the US.

According to a CDC.gov report “Youth and Tobacco Use“:

  • “Tobacco use is started and established primarily during adolescence.
  • Nearly 9 out of 10 cigarette smokers first tried smoking by age 18, and 99% first tried smoking by age 26.
  • Each day in the United States, more than 3,800 youth aged 18 years or younger smoke their first cigarette, and an additional 2,100 youth and young adults become daily cigarette smokers.
  • Flavorings in tobacco products can make them more appealing to youth.
  • In 2014, 73% of high school students and 56% of middle school students who used tobacco products in the past 30 days reported using a flavored tobacco product during that time.”

The report also stated ” If smoking continues at the current rate among youth in this country, 5.6 million of today’s Americans younger than 18 will die early from a smoking-related illness. That’s about 1 of every 13 Americans aged 17 years or younger alive today.

Tobacco Products Used

According to the report, the top 3 tobacco products used by high school students in 2014 were electronic cigarettes (13.4%), hookahs (9.4%) and cigarettes (9.2%).

For middle school students in 2014 it was electronic cigarettes (3.9%), hookahs (2.5%) and cigarettes (2.5%).

Factors Associated With Youth Tobacco Use

Factors associated with youth tobacco use include the following:

  • Social and physical environments;
  • The way mass media show tobacco use as a normal activity can promote smoking among young people.
  • Youth are more likely to use tobacco if they see that tobacco use is acceptable or normal among their peers.
  • High school athletes are more likely to use smokeless tobacco than their peers who are non-athletes.
  • Parental smoking may promote smoking among young people.
  • Biological and genetic factors
  • There is evidence that youth may be sensitive to nicotine and that teens can feel dependent on nicotine sooner than adults.
  • Genetic factors may make quitting smoking more difficult for young people.
  • A mother’s smoking during pregnancy may increase the likelihood that her offspring will become regular smokers.
  • Mental health: There is a strong relationship between youth smoking and depression, anxiety, and stress.
  • Personal perceptions: Expectations of positive outcomes from smoking, such as coping with stress and controlling weight, are related to youth tobacco use.

Other influences that affect youth tobacco use include:

  • Lower socioeconomic status, including lower income or education
  • Lack of skills to resist influences to tobacco use
  • Lack of support or involvement from parents
  • Accessibility, availability, and price of tobacco products
  • Low levels of academic achievement
  • Low self-image or self-esteem
  • Exposure to tobacco advertising
  •  

In Summary

It is hard to not smoke as a teenager when your friends and peers are smoking too. At such a young age, many teens don’t have the knowledge or support to be able to quit… it can be difficult enough for adults. Although e-cigarettes (most used by teens) would be easier to quit than conventional cigarettes.

Teen smoking clearly is a big problem that needs to be tackled with re-education of smoking and its risks. It’s important to change teenagers thinking/perception around smoking and quitting to make the process easier and to prevent them taking up smoking in the first place.

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