Per the Center for Disease Control, preventing tobacco use among youth is critical to ending the tobacco epidemic in the United States. Nearly 9 out of 10 cigarette smokers first tried smoking by age 18, and 99 percent first tried smoking by age 26. In 2015, about 7 of every 100 middle school students (7.4 percent) and about 25 of every 100 high school students (25.3 percent) used some type of tobacco product. Recently, Valley’s Cancer Services team visited Nelsen Middle School to speak with students about the dangers and consequences of tobacco use and secondhand smoke. Nearly 400 6th through 8th graders participated in the program.
During the event, the Cancer Services Team touched upon:
- The fact that there is no such thing as a safe tobacco product. This includes cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, tobacco pipes, bidis, hookah and electronic cigarettes
- 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.
- Mental health: There is a strong relationship between youth smoking and depression, anxiety, and stress.