A recent survey found that only 9% of teens in the United States smoke cigarettes. That’s down from 23% in 2000. It’s less than the numbers of landlines still in use and the number of VHS tapes sold in 2013. While this is good news for America’s overall health, tobacco use is still a problem.
Cigarettes have been linked to cancer, lung disease, diabetes, heart conditions, and high blood pressure. Despite knowing the health effects, teenagers still smoke. According to the American Lung Association, every day almost 3,900 children under 18 years of age try their first cigarette, and more than 950 of them will become daily smokers. If the trend continues at its current rate, 5.8 million children alive today will die as a result of smoking.
The Truth campaign is working to end teenage smoking all together. Their latest #FinishIt series uses social media to spread awareness about the dangers of smoking. “If we all join forces – smokers and non-smokers – we can end smoking once and for all,” the campaign website states. The campaign encourages teens to not judge, but instead to learn the facts. “We’re not here to criticize your choices, or tell you not to smoke. We’re here to arm everyone – smokers and non-smokers – with the tools to make change,” they say.
Another Issue Surfaces
Anti-smoking campaigns may have a new problem to worry about. A 2013 report from the Center for Disease Control found that use of electronic cigarettes, battery-powered devices, is on the rise. High school students who reported ever using an electronic cigarette rose from 4.7% percent in 2011 to 10% in 2012.
“The increased use of e-cigarettes by teens is deeply troubling,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Nicotine is a highly addictive drug. Many teens who start with e-cigarettes may struggle with a lifelong addiction.”
Scientists are still researching exactly how harmful e-cigarettes are.. “This is cause for great concern as we don’t yet understand the long-term effects of these novel tobacco products,” said Mitch Zeller, director of FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.
According to the CDC, harmful effects of smoking do not end with the smoker. An estimated 88 million nonsmoking Americans, including 54% of children between the ages of 3 and 11, are exposed to secondhand smoke. Even brief exposure can be dangerous.
This year, the pharmacy chain CVS made a move to fight the tobacco trend. It became the first nationwide pharmacy to ban sales of cigarettes and tobacco products at its U.S. stores. The decision came after years of pressure from health experts.
“The question we get from health care providers is: how serious are you about health?” says Troy Brennan, chief medical officer at CVS Caremark. “This decision indicates exactly how serious we are.”
With the obvious danger of tobacco, anti-smoking campaigns have become more popular. Some college campuses and other outdoor areas across the country have banned smoking altogether.
As of October 27, 21,615 children and teens have joined the Truth campaign and pledged not to smoke. The group hopes that they can give teens and young people the knowledge to “be the generation that ends smoking.”