Archive for category Tobacco Abuse

Dangers of Teen Smoking and What Parents Can Do to Intervene

According to the 2015 World Health Organization (WHO) Global Report on Trends in Prevalence of Tobacco Smoking, tobacco use is accountable for the death of approximately 6 million people across the world each year. This figure includes the estimated 600,000 people who are also likely to die from the ill effects caused by exposure to secondhand smoke.

Cigarette smoking poses serious health risks, as attested by several studies. Among these risks are certain cancers like mouth, throat, larynx, lungs; coronary heart disease; and respiratory ailments.

The onset of medical conditions related to tobacco use is affected by the duration of exposure to its dangers. The earlier in age the smoking begun, the sooner the health complications develop. Medical research shows that those who started tobacco use in their teens are more likely to develop nicotine addiction and become heavy users upon reaching adulthood. The longer the use, the more challenging it is to quit.

This is why teen smoking is a grave public health threat. However, adolescents continue to stubbornly ignore the statistics and the health warnings. For instance, in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collated data show that more than 3,200 teens ages 18 and below have been initiated to cigarette smoking.

These figures show that despite pervasive health education, prevention propaganda, and government bans, smoking remains tremendously popular among young people.

It is worth noting that the term “tobacco use” is not limited to cigarettes but includes other tobacco-related products such as e-cigarettes, hookahs, cigars and low-tar products. Use of multiple tobacco products is also common among teens. According to the information gathered from the CDC surveys on Tobacco Use Among Middle and High School from 2011 to 2015, an average of 3.3% of middle school children and 13% of high school students admitted to use two or more tobacco products in the past 30 days.

cigarette smoking

Why Teenagers Smoke

There are several factors that affect a teenager’s decision to begin smoking. Among the major contributing elements are the following:

Media and advertising campaigns

Because surveys show that heavy smokers begin the habit between their pre-teen to teenage years, tobacco manufacturers have devised strategies to redesign their advertising to target this particular age group. A popular example is the marketing strategy of Camel cigarettes in the late 80’s which utilized the cartoon character Joe Camel. The marketing strategy was so effective that it significantly increased the sales of Camel cigarettes in the United States to about $466 million in 1992.

Similar promotional tactics – which include hiring famous celebrities to endorse cigarette smoking – are being used by other leading tobacco companies to portray smoking as “cool,” “hip,” “romantic,” and “pleasurable.” Some of these ads also associate smoking with independence, rebellion, glamor and popularity.

In addition, the proliferation of film, television, music videos and magazines that feature teenage characters who smoke sends out the message that this is a good trend to engage in. These entice the young generation to light up and smoke their first cigarette.

Familial exposure

Children who are exposed to parents, family members or guardians who smoke are also likely to take up the deadly habit. Kids look up to their parents and elders as primary role models and mimic their behaviour. Failure by the parents to emphasize the harmful effects of smoking creates the perception that it is “normal” or “acceptable” and lessens the impact of health advisories.

Peer pressure

Peer pressure is also a major contributing factor. During their adolescent years, children feel a compelling need to belong and to be accepted by social circles. Smoking may provide as avenues for developing friendships or strengthening bonds among peers.

It is during these formative years that teenagers struggle for a sense of self-identify and independence apart from their parents. It is a crucial phase and their coping mechanisms will determine whether or not they will succumb to the societal pressure to light and smoke their first cigarette. Parental absence or neglect coupled with lack effective school regulations of cigarette use on school campuses will negatively impact their decisions.

teen woman smokingRebellion or social image

Teenagers also go through the transition period from being a child to an adult and during this stage, they experiment with their choices. This is also the time when several differences between the parents and the teenagers arise. This can spark defiance and rebellion, which are also motivating factors for teens to pick up smoking as a habit, either to deliberately challenge their parents or to seek much-wanted attention.

They may also be driven by the desire to build an image of being independent, cool, gothic or bad as when they identify with a character from a movie or an anime cartoon and they start practicing the bad habits portrayed in the film.

Sense of invincibility

In a certain way, most adolescents feel immortal and invincible. In their teenage years, they view life ahead as a series of never-ending adventures that would somehow stretch on through eternity. For them, the concepts of aging, sickness and health are so far off in the future. Thus, public health warnings on the perilous effects of smoking are easily ignored. Besides, they always tell themselves the biggest lie that most smokers believe – that they can quit anytime.

Dangers of Teen Smoking

The younger a person is initiated to tobacco use, the more likely he is to develop nicotine addiction in his adult years. Nicotine poisons the body over time and dependence on the substance places a smoker at a greater risk for developing serious health problems at an earlier age. Among these are: coronary heart diseases; stroke; emphysema; several cancers; lung diseases; respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia; osteoporosis; decreased fertility and impotence.

Smoking in teenage years causes reduced lung growth. As a result, the lungs are undeveloped and become incapable of functioning properly. Thus, teenage smokers are most likely to have respiratory illnesses throughout their lives.

Nicotine addiction occurs hastily in adolescents, making cessation and withdrawal more challenging.

Tobacco use doesn’t only impact the health of the smoker. It is equally dangerous to those who are exposed to second-hand smoke which contains several chemicals proven to be carcinogenic. Prolonged exposure can trigger conditions such as asthma, allergies, heart disease. In worse cases, it may even cause lung cancer.


Warning Signs

It is important to know the warning signs of teen smoking. Spotting them early on allows for an opportunity for timely intervention that can delay the occurrence of nicotine dependence. Here are some warning signs that parents should watch out for:

Smoke smell

This is one of the most telling signs that a teenager is smoking. It is also easy to detect because the strong smell of cigarette smoke attaches to clothing items and even to the skin.

Use of cologne sprays or air fresheners

Sudden or increased use of cologne sprays or body mists could indicate that the teenager is attempting to conceal or obscure the scent of cigarette smoke on his clothing. The same goes for sudden use of air fresheners or incense in his bedroom especially if he has not used these items in the past.

Lighters and matches

Parents should watch out for unnecessary acquisition of lighters and matches by their teenage children. There may be several lighters or matchboxes hidden in their desk drawers, backpacks, purses or clothing pockets and these are strong indicators that they are smoking.

Breath mints or breath fresheners

Another sign of teen smoking is the sudden or increased use of breath fresheners, mints, chewing gums, candies or mouthwash. The teenager could be using these products in attempts to camouflage the smell of tobacco on his breath.

Disappearances from the house

If the teenager is frequently leaving the house on short notice or suddenly goes out without seeking prior permission, for no valid reasons, it could be that he is sneaking off somewhere to smoke a cigarette. These instances of his disappearances, especially when under questionable circumstances as when they occur at night, should be investigated and addressed promptly.

If these signs or behavioral changes are noticed, it may be time to for the parents or other family members to intervene. It is imperative that tobacco use is stopped immediately in order to diminish its chances of progressing to nicotine addiction.

How Parents Can Intervene

Be a positive role model

The best way for parents to keep children away from smoking is for them to set good examples. They are the most influential people in their children’s lives. Their employed parenting techniques will reflect on their kids’ choices.

There should be open discussion in the home as to the negative impacts of smoking followed by a firm stand against it. It should be discouraged. If parents are themselves, struggling with tobacco use, they should seek professional help and cessation programs.

Take active roles in their lives

Smoking is only one of the many vices teenagers may take up as a result of parental neglect. Parents should keep open channels of communication with their children and be take active roles in their lives. For instance, show genuine interest in their hobbies, encourage family activities, and get to know their friends. Children who feel emotionally secure in the home and who know they can turn to their parents for advice and guidance are less likely to cave into peer pressure.

Be patient, not judgmental

Should parents find that despite all their efforts, their kids have started smoking anyway, they should sit down to dialogue and to listen. It is important that teenagers don’t feel attacked or cornered. Rather, they need to be assured that their parents are coming from a place of concern and affection. Parents should avoid issuing threats or imposing punishment outright. On the contrary, they should strive to listen and to understand the reasons why their children started smoking.

The addictive nature of nicotine will make quitting very difficult and confusing for teenagers. They will need their parents’ support, motivation and encouragement especially during the rough periods of withdrawal.

parent intervention teens

Encourage sports and physical activities

According to several studies in the past, there is evidence that physical activities can delay smoking initiation among the youth. Team sports and aerobic activities are also recommended as part of smoking cessation programs, to help distract both the mind and body from the cravings for tobacco use.

Counselling intervention

It will definitely help to seek professional medical advice and enroll the teenage smoker in individual counselling or support group therapy. A report by the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP) supports the position that counselling is especially effective for adolescent smokers as it doubles long-term abstinence rates compared to other approaches that do not involve behavioural treatment.

Parents may also encourage their children to register for smoking cessation programs whether at school clinics, treatment facilities, or community health centers.

The harmful and life-threatening effects of teen smoking, as well as the adverse implications of the relevant statistical data, are widely known. While prevention of cigarette initiation appears to be the best solution to this public health issue, timely intervention methods are likewise effective alternatives. The importance of intervening early and swiftly as soon as the issue is discovered cannot be sufficiently underscored.

Whatever factors compel teenagers to begin this addictive pattern, all hopes to salvage their future are not entirely lost. They must have the resolve to begin the journey towards recovery, through the guidance and support of family and friends. Clearly, overcoming tobacco use or dependence is a battle that no ordinary adolescent can win alone.

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Chicago Mayor’s Proposal on Stricter Smoking Regulations Opposed By City Council Committee

Implementing more stringent measures against cigarette smoking may sound like a heroic act for any mayor, but it doesn’t seem to be the case in Chicago.

cigarette smokingAfter Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans to update the legal smoking age to 21 (from the current 18) and increase taxes on tobacco products, members of the City Council Finance Committee doused water on the mayor’s proposal. According to some aldermen in the committee, the latest move by Emanuel may lead to more harm than good. Here are some of the opposing views on the matter:

  • According to one alderman, the high taxation against tobacco may increase the sale of tobacco products in the black market and lead small tobacco businesses to shut down.
  • Chairman Edward Burke (14th) spoke in behalf of aldermen, saying that the mayor’s plans would worsen the situation on loose cigarettes in the black market.
  • Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said in a news release that the change in legal smoking age was without basis, considering that people who are 18 years old are allowed to get married. “An 18-year-old is not a kid,” according to Hairston.

Emanuel seems unfazed by the criticism on his proposal. “Mayor Emanuel has stood up to the tobacco industry countless times throughout his career to reduce youth smoking, and he’s not about to back down now”, a statement from the mayor’s office said. He seems to be banking on his effective five-year campaign against teen smoking, the rate of which has dropped to 10.7 percent in the city.

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Kids Exposed To Secondhand Smoke Have Higher Risk of Obesity and Poor Brain Functioning

If you want your kids to do better in school and keep their weights in check, you should quit smoking.

cigarette secondhand smokeThis was the theme of the study by researchers from the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, after looking into the cases of 220 children between the ages of 7 and 11 diagnosed as overweight or obese. The study proponents asked parents about their children’s exposure to secondhand smoke, and tested the kids for presence of the nicotine metabolite cotinine in their bloodstream. Data on levels of physical fitness of the children were also collated.

The results of the study were clear as day: Children exposed to secondhand smoke were more likely to be overweight or obese, and develop poorer cognitive functioning. “All the bad things fat does to us, passive smoking makes worse,” according to study co-author Martha S. Tingen in a news item. “Children who were exposed to second-hand smoke scored poorer on all cognitive tests.” Tingen works at the Cancer Center at Augusta University as Tobacco Control Program director.

Exposure to cigarette smoke leads children away from their potential to live better lives. “We are talking about a recipe for an unhealthy child who becomes an unhealthy adult who cannot reach their full potential,” Tingen mentioned. She also stated the long-standing belief that secondhand smoke is as harmful as firsthand use of the tobacco product. “If you are breathing in second-hand smoke, it’s almost as bad as if you were smoking the cigarette yourself,” Tingen added.

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Non-Smoking Teens Still Exposed To Secondhand Smoke, Says Study

Your teenage child may refuse to smoke cigarettes, but it doesn’t mean that they’re free from the health hazards associated with smoking.

cigarette secondhand smokeIn a startling discovery by a research team from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), close to half of teenagers in middle school and high school who don’t smoke are exposed to secondhand smoke. The findings were based on inquiries on more than 17,000 kids back in 2013.

Much like smoking tobacco, secondhand smoke is considered by the CDC to be an equally dangerous substance. “These findings are concerning because the U.S. Surgeon General has concluded that there is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure,” said study lead author Israel Agaku via a news report.

What’s more surprising is that roughly 25 percent of the kids exposed to secondhand smoke said that they get exposed on a daily basis. However, the study wasn’t able to determine the exact duration of exposure of these children to secondhand cigarette smoke.

In addition, the rate of secondhand smoke exposure was higher in teenagers who engaged in smoking, the study team added.

Results and details of the CDC study were published in the journal Pediatrics.

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TV Advertising Exposes Too Many Kids To E-Cigarettes

As the world becomes increasingly aware of the hazards of electronic cigarettes, more studies and investigations are continuing to deal with this worsening issue. This recent statement from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) seems to support the campaign against e-cigarettes.

children tv exposure to alcohol adsThe agency recently released survey results saying that children in the U.S. are exposed to e-cigarette advertisements on TV. Results revealed that roughly 70 percent of kids admitted to have seen an e-cigarette ad on television. The survey was conducted with about 22,000 students in high school and middle school, who were asked if they saw an ad on e-cigarettes in TV, movies, magazines, retail stores, or online.

The agency fears that this trend may lead more teenagers to engage in e-cigarette smoking, which may also translate to tobacco use. “Unfettered marketing of e-cigarettes has the potential to compromise decades of progress,” said CDC representative Brian King in a news item.

CDC’s statement, however, wasn’t met with unanimous acceptance. For instance, the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association said that the agency’s statement shouldn’t be taken as it is. “The CDC continues to mislead the public about the benefits of vapor products as far less harmful alternatives to smoking… The CDC also fails to mention that teens are exposed to many other adult issues on the Internet, TV and movies, such as violence, sex, and alcohol,” said group executive director Cynthia Cabrera.

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Study: E-Cigarette Use Leads To Cell Damage and High Cancer Risk

Many people look to electronic cigarettes as a way to quit smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes, but several studies have confirmed that e-cigarettes are no better. Another study recently added to the list of researchers against e-cigarettes.

teen e-cigarette useResearchers at the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System revealed via a news release that electronic cigarettes may lead to cellular damage. This occurrence increases the risk of developing cancer. “Our study strongly suggests that electronic cigarettes are not as safe as their marketing makes them appear to the public,” the researchers said.

The research team conducted lab experiments on human cells by exposing them to e-cigarette vapors from two specific brands. Whether the product was free from nicotine or not, the damage was evident in cells exposed to the vapor, compared with untreated human cells. “We found that other variables can do damage as well. It’s not that the nicotine is completely innocent in the mix, but it looks like the amount of nicotine that the cells are exposed to by e-cigarettes is not sufficient by itself to cause these changes. There must be other components in the e-cigarettes that are doing this damage. So we may be identifying other carcinogenic components that are previously undescribed,” said study co-lead Dr. Jessica Wang-Rodriquez.

Results of the study were published in the journal Oral Oncology.

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