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Tobacco Use

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An estimated 440,000 people die from smoking – related causes each year in the United States. Nearly all smoking – related deaths occur after the age of 35, but the majority of adults who smoke began during adolescence. Eighty – two percent of adults who smoke started smoking before age 18, and virtually no adult smokers start after the age of 25.

Young adults ages 18 to 25 have the highest prevalence of recent smoking — 60 percent higher than that of adults over the age of 25. The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes the situation with tobacco by pointing out the following:

Still, 7.1 percent of 8th graders, 13.6 percent of 10th graders, and 19.2 percent of 12th graders were current smokers in 2010—they had used cigarettes in the 30 days prior to being surveyed. While there has been a sustained decline since the mid-1990’s, the past few years indicate a slowing of this decline. In fact, current use has leveled off among 8th,10th and, 12th graders, suggesting that renewed efforts are needed to ensure that teens understand the harmful consequences of smoking.

Approximately 70 million people ages 12 years or older reported current use of tobacco in 2009—58.7 million were cigarette smokers, 13.3 million smoked cigars, 2.1 million smoked pipes, and 8.6 million used smokeless tobacco.

Since 1964, more than 12 million Americans have died prematurely from smoking, and another 25 million U.S. smokers alive today will most likely die of a smoking-related illness.

Smoking accounts for about one-third of all cancer deaths.

It causes lung diseases such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and it has been found to exacerbate asthma symptoms in adults and children.Smoking substantially increases the risk of heart disease, including stroke, heart attack, vascular disease, and aneurysm.Passive or secondary smoke also increases the risk for many diseases approximately 3,400 lung cancer deaths and 46,000 deaths from coronary heart disease per year among nonsmokers.

Nearly 90 percent of smokers start smoking by age 18, and of smokers under 18 years of age, more than 6 million will die prematurely from a smoking-related disease. Tobacco use by teens is not only the result of psychosocial influences, such as peer pressure; recent research suggests that there may be biological reasons for this period of increased vulnerability. Indeed, even intermittent smoking can result in the development of tobacco addiction in some teens.

The facts are clear, smoking is dangerous and it kills. If we focus keenly on preventing tobacco use among our children, when successfully, they are very unlikely to ever start smoking. Consider any use of tobacco among youth, even a single cigarette, as dangerous and in need of immediate action.

Author

Gary L. Hopkins, MD, DrPH, MPH is currently an associate research professor at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan where he is also associate director of the Institute for Prevention of Addictions, Director of the Center for Prevention Research and Director of the Center for Media Impact Research.