Youth tobacco use has been an ongoing phenomenon for quite some time now. Tobacco companies have unfortunately executed many successful, multi-million dollar marketing campaigns that target and hook youth with the promise of escape and social acceptance. According to the Center of Disease Control, if smoking rates continue on this trajectory, nearly 6 million Americans under the age of 18 will lose their life prematurely. In total, that would be nearly 1 out of every 13 young Americans under the age of 18 who are alive today.
There are many factors that contribute to the prevalence of tobacco use in young people. Social and physical environments can easily pressure a young person to want to follow trends they see either around friends, family and on social media. Biological and genetic factors can cause sensitivity to tobacco and a predisposition to addiction. The tobacco industry certainly capitalizes on the fragility of a young person’s sense of self and mental health. The effects of tobacco may offer relief from depression and anxiety which is alluring to youth struggling with mental health issues. If a young person is looking for ways to cope from stress, depression, and anxiety, they sometimes turn to tobacco use. The brain of a child continues to develop until age 25 and smoking can often be a gateway to other drugs. Further, smoking causes long-term damage to the heart, lungs and other organs.
Lack of education also contributes to tobacco use. From JUUL to Vuse, there are many newer tobacco products that parents may not even recognize as tobacco products. These products contain high levels of nicotine and are just as addicting as smoking cigarettes. In our community, there needs to be more focus on educating parents and their children from a much younger age so that children know what to look out for and how these products are now being presented in a more appealing light.
Community Health Worker