The vast majority of tobacco users began when they were young. In fact, each day in the U.S., more than 3,800 people younger than 18 years of age smoke their first cigarette, and 2,100 youth and young adults become regular smokers. Young people face enormous pressures to smoke. Smoking in movies, music videos and advertising portrays tobacco use as a social norm, encouraging kids to smoke. Plus, when their parents or peers use tobacco, they’re more likely to start, too.
A variety of other contributing factors that influence youth tobacco use include:
- Low economic status
- Lack of parental support or involvement
- Low levels of academic achievement
- Low self-image or self-esteem
- Role modeling from parents or family
The impact of smoking not only immediately affects a young person’s health, but their future too. Youth smokers are more likely to develop severe levels of nicotine addiction compared to adults, which leads to continued tobacco use as they grow older. Nicotine narrows blood vessels, increases blood pressure and puts added strain on the heart. This means shortness of breath, asthma and respiratory illnesses… not to mention cancer and other chronic diseases. Aside from health effects, there are also many adverse social effects of smoking. It can make hair and clothes stink, stain teeth and cause bad breath. And smokeless tobacco can lead to cracked lips, sores and bleeding in the mouth.
Preventing Youth Tobacco Use
Tobacco prevention is essential for the health and future of Oklahoma’s youth. Parents, schools and all members of the community have an enormous influence on a child’s decisions. We can help protect them from the dangers of smoking a number of different ways.
- Parents should talk directly to their children about the risks of tobacco. Your attitudes and feelings can greatly influence whether or not your child smokes.
- If your child has friends who smoke, talk about ways to defend against peer pressure.
- Schools can provide tobacco education and smoking prevention programs to students.
- If you’re a parent who smokes, try to quit. Call the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline for free coaching and support. While you’re quitting, don’t use tobacco in your child’s presence and don’t leave it where they can easily access it.
- Youth can access the Helpline too. Quit coaching is available for callers 13 years of age and older. Call 1-800-QUIT NOW or visit OKhelpline.com for more information.
- As a parent, your attitudes and opinions have a powerful influence on your child’s behavior. That’s why it’s essential to talk to your kids about the dangers of tobacco. Click here for tips to get the conversation started.
- Encourage kids to participate in youth initiatives like Kick Butts Day or World No Tobacco Day.
Kick Butts Day
Kick Butts Day is a national day of activism that empowers youth to stand out, speak up and take control against Big Tobacco. Each year, thousands of young people plan and conduct events that focus attention on the deadly dangers of tobacco use, proven solutions to the problem and tobacco industry marketing that targets youth. Because nearly 9 out of 10 smokers start before the age of 18, youth play a unique role in the world of tobacco control and have the power to make a difference.
Find more resources to learn about how Kick Butts Day works, examples of other events and to plan your own at KickButtsDay.org. Make every day Kick Butts Day in the fight against tobacco.