First the bad news.
According to the CDC, more than 3,000 young people become regular smokers every day, which is more than one million new smokers a year. And many of them continue to smoke regularly as adults, increasing their risk of dying prematurely from smoking-related diseases, such as lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
The CDC also reports that 'Teen smoking is often an early warning sign of future problems. Teens who smoke are three times as likely as nonsmokers to use alcohol, eight times as likely to use marijuana, and 22 times as likely to use cocaine. Smoking is also associated with numerous other high risk behaviors, including fighting and having unprotected sex.'
There is a little good news though. A recent report from the CDC, Cigarette Use Among High School Students --- United States, 1991--2003, showed a decrease in teen smoking from a high of 35 percent in 1999 to 22 percent in 2003.
Unfortunately, that still means that 1 in 5 teens smoke cigarettes.
Even more disturbing is that 17 percent of kids in 9th grade reported smoking cigarettes. The rate of smoking then increases to a high of 26 percent in 12th grade.
Although the decrease in teens who smoke is great, more still needs to be done to decrease the number of teen smokers even further. One of the most important things that parents can do is to be aware of their teen's smoking and talk about and discourage them from ever starting to smoke at an early age.
The CDC also recommends continued efforts in:
- devising targeted and effective media campaigns,
- reducing depictions of tobacco use in entertainment media,
- instituting campaigns to discourage family and friends from providing cigarettes to young persons,
- promoting smoke-free homes,
- instituting comprehensive school-based programs and policies in conjunction with supportive community activities to prevent smoking initiation and encourage smoking cessation, and
- decreasing the number of adult smokers (e.g., parents) to present more nonsmoking role models.