Despite warnings about the health hazards of tobacco use, people have continuously patronized this product, making it a seemingly essential part of their daily lives. What makes the issue alarming is the fact that teen smoking rates are increasing, and more kids have started an early addiction to tobacco. Aside from the usual cigarettes that they may have access to, teenagers also use pipes, hookahs, bidis, and the very popular e-cigarettes.
If this continues, teens who engage in tobacco use may die early from smoking-related illnesses.
To stop teenagers from engaging in the use of tobacco products, parents should become aware of the probable causes why their teens start to smoke at such an early age.
Why Do Teens Smoke Cigarettes?
There may be various factors why teenagers start to smoke cigarettes, some of which include the following:
Poor parental modelling
Teenagers whose parents smoke are more likely to become tobacco users themselves, especially if they see adults smoking and making it a part of their daily routine. In their young minds, adolescents may think that since it is readily available, it is part of any normal human experience.
Movies may also have a huge influence on teenagers. At least 47% of teens agreed that seeing drugs and tobacco products on screen seem to be okay.
Another study showed that teens aged 12-17 years old who watch three or more rated “R” movies were seven times more likely to smoke cigarettes. They probably think that tobacco use is a way of being “cool” as they see it being used by their favorite actors.
Being a teenager is not as easy as it sounds, because it is during this stage that they try to discover things, including their own identities. When they feel unhappy, more often than not, they may turn to a substance that they have easier access to. Taking the substance may produce a different kind of feeling, which can make them happy, energized and more confident.
Sometimes, teenagers feel the need to smoke because they don’t have anything else to do. You can’t expect them to be always studying as it may make them feel burn out and bored.
In this case, tobacco use or alcohol consumption may fill the internal void.
Smoking can somehow become their way of hanging out with similar-minded teens thereby instantly having a connection. Seeing that other people are also using these substances lessens a teenager’s fear of being misjudged. They get a sense that whatever crazy decisions they make, blaming it on the substance is just a fine excuse.
Teens may be dealing with different issues in their young lives to a point that they turn to alcohol or drugs as a means of showing rebellion. They may choose different substances depending on their personalities.
For instance, angry teenagers may choose alcohol or methamphetamines to make them behave more aggressively. Marijuana has the opposite effect, by making them feel secluded from the whole world. Tobacco use may make them flaunt their independence, like making a statement to parents saying that they have already grown up.
A teenager’s life is a complex stage. Many shy teenagers would make use of drugs or alcohol to help them gain confidence. The effects that tobacco produces include having less inhibition and reducing social anxiety.
Wrong knowledge of tobacco use implications
Being naïve at a young age comes with a price. Some teenagers think that taking these substances will not lead to any untoward incidents. Some teenagers would influence their friends and provide wrong information about the effects of the substances.
It is best that parents should have time to talk to their children regarding the dangers of tobacco products. This way, teenagers will have greater chances of staying away from people who are trying to influence them.
Teenagers turn to substance use because they feel a form of instant gratification. The initial effects of triggering the “happy center” of the brain can make a teenager down a glass of alcohol or light up a cigarette.
Teen Smoking Stats
The following data shows just how critical tobacco use is among teenagers.
- At least 3,200 individuals each day aged 18 years old and below smoke their first cigarette.
- Two in every 100 middle school students reported that they have smoked cigarette in the past month.
- E-cigarette use increased among middle school students from 2011 to 2015.
- Seven out of 100 middle school students have used some type of tobacco product.
- At least 30% of high school male teenagers are smoking.
- At least 8% of middle school male teenagers smoke a certain tobacco product.
- In 2014, the most prevalent forms of smoking were electronic cigarettes (13.4 percent), hookah (9.4 percent), cigarettes (9.2 percent) and cigars (8.2 percent).
Dangers of Tobacco Use by Teenagers
Because teenagers are still in the stage of growing, they are vulnerable to the deadly effects of smoking. Health consequences from tobacco use include the following:
- Respiration problems
- Nicotine addiction
- Increased risk of getting hooked on another substance
- Decreased lung function
- Heart disease and stroke
- Poor performance associated with decreased endurance in doing physical activities
- Increased heart rate
- Shortness of breath
- Associated with risky behaviors
The facts stated above aren’t associated with smoking, because most of the information circulating are geared towards warning the public against the effects of illicit drugs. However, although it has a legal status in any country, tobacco can cause a lot of diseases that may eventually lead to death.
This is one reason why all cigarette packs need to display graphic warnings to let the people know the hazards of smoking. Through this form of advertisement or information campaign, people who smoke tobacco may find themselves lowering their rate of consumption until they can completely get rid of the deadly habit.
Facts about Teenage Smoking
Tobacco use is something that teenagers may consider as part of regular human life just like eating or sleeping. Little do they know that getting hooked on tobacco can cause them health risks that exceed the fulfillment that they think they receive.
Here are some disturbing facts about teen smoking:
- Female teenagers use tobacco as their means of controlling weight. However, smoking can also cause excess hair growth.
- Smoking cigarettes decrease lung function growth.
- Roughly 44% of teens say that they did not know bidi cigarettes would lead to cancer.
- One bidi cigarette has three times more nicotine and carbon monoxide compared to a regular cigarette.
- Teens who smoke produce more phlegm that those who don’t smoke.
- Tobacco smoking can cause skin break outs.
- Pimples often stay longer.
- Smoking 2-3 cigarettes a day can get anyone hooked to a long-term habit in two weeks.
- Teen smokers have a lowered immune system.
- Sleeping disturbance may be evident among teen smokers.
How to Help Teens Stop Smoking
There is a need to provide comprehensive regulations to reduce accessibility and affordability of cigarettes and other tobacco products to prevent teens from engaging in tobacco use.
Cigarette smoking among the youth is a global issue. Adolescents may have several reasons for tobacco use with the wrong perception that it can make them stand out from the rest and belong to the “cool” groups in school. Whatever reasons these teenagers may have, the fact remains that smoking affects overall health.
Other than merely relying on what the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says about the dangers of smoking, parents should be the first people to educate their children regarding the risks of smoking tobacco products.
Teen smoking rates can be reduced with the following suggestions:
Parents should be role models
Sometimes, a parent can be more effective in teaching their children when their children see them “practice what they preach”. The earlier the parents stop smoking, the less likely their teen kids can become smokers.
While it may not be easy for smoking parents to stop immediately, they should learn not to smoke in front of their children. Never leave cigarettes on places where your teens may find them. Let the children know that you are struggling to stop smoking.
It would be helpful to seek medical advice on how you can slowly quit smoking.
Instead of scolding your teens upon discovery of tobacco use, try understanding their actions. You may approach the matter through any of the following:
- Ask if their friends are smoking too.
- Know if there are things that could be bothering them, and let them open up to you. Listen and provide solutions.
- Acknowledge all positive actions and correct those that are inappropriate.
Teens need their parents more during this time. With so many questions in their heads, they need to receive the right information from parents instead of getting their answers from fellow teens.
Educate them on the risks
Approach your teen in a way where you describe smoking as something that is filthy – how it can mess up with the way they look, their breath smells, and the color of their teeth appears.
Point out the consequences that will happen when they start using tobacco. Mention any relative or friend who may have been ill due to smoking.
In addition, give them a simple computation on how much it could affect their weekly school budget if some of their money is spent on buying cigarettes. Calculate the amount that they will spend on cigarettes in a year. The amount might even be the same as the cost of a mobile device.
Be firm when you tell your children that smoking is never allowed. When you emphasize this to them at a young age, they are more likely to adhere to what you tell them.
Inform them about the dangers of e-cigarettes as well
Let them know that e-cigarettes can harm the body just the same way as tobacco. It can even be more dangerous because some e-cigarettes use synthetic substances that can increase the risk of health hazards.
Participate in anti-smoking campaigns
Your teens would listen more and believe you more when you get yourself involved in any local or school-sponsored campaigns against smoking.
Nicotine Test Kit
To find out if your teenager is using tobacco, you may purchase nicotine test kits. These products can be very helpful in determining recent tobacco use – whether cigars, cigarettes, pipe tobaccos, or smokeless tobacco.
A urine nicotine drug test is capable of detecting cotinine, a substance produced when nicotine enters the individual’s body. Just like any other urine drug test, a urine sample is collected and an easy-to-read dip card is used in measuring the nicotine levels.
It only takes a few minutes to determine the presence of nicotine. The presence of nicotine in the sample can be detected even 2-4 days after the last tobacco use.