From traditional cigarettes to e-cigs or cigars, there’s no shortage of products for people to get their tobacco fix. And while moms and dads know these products – while unhealthy – are meant for those old enough to know better, there have been some eye-raising stats wafting around recently about the number of kids using tobacco.
For one, Reuters reported not long ago that roughly 11 percent of kids between the ages of 13 and 15 world-wide use tobacco products such as cigarettes and cigars.
The numbers come from researchers who looked at surveys of teens in 61 countries that were done between 2012 and 2015. They found 50 percent of nations had a smoking rate of at least 15 percent for boys and at least 8 percent for girls.
That’s scary enough. But what’s even more frightening are the number of deaths associated with tobacco. Yes, we all know smoking is dangerous and can harm nearly every organ in the body, but the Reuters story reminds us it’s the world’s leading cause of preventable death — killing an estimated 6 million people each year.
Meanwhile, the bulk of smokers start the habit as teenagers – and in many of the countries, at least half of tobacco smokers said they wanted to quit.
“Young people who begin to smoke at an earlier age are more likely than those who start at older ages to develop long-term nicotine addiction,” lead study author Rene Arrazola told Reuters. “Therefore, efforts to prevent youth tobacco use are critical to prevent another generation of adults who smoke and suffer from smoking-related death and disease.”
What’s more, while teens may think they can kick the habit when they are older, they may be too young to realize that it can have long-term effects, everything from reduced physical fitness to early heart disease to skin wrinkling and damage to poor oral health.
As parents, it’s up to us to remind our kids about the dangers of smoking not only now, but as they grow older. Even though the conversation may not be comfortable, here are a few talking points courtesy of the Get Healthy, Stay Healthy website.
- Teens who smoke may be sick more often and may develop lung problems or have more asthma attacks. If they’re active in sports, this can hurt their athletic performance.
- Smoking can be a gateway to alcohol and other drugs
- Smoking can make teens look bad, giving them anything from bad breath, yellow teeth or poor skin
- Smoking is a known cause of heart disease, stroke and many forms of cancer (including oral cancer)– and it decreases life expectancy
- Nicotine can impact brain development which could have long-term effects on memory and attention