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Substance Abuse

US Surgeon General Reports on Youth Smoking

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A report from the U.S. Surgeon General tackles tobacco use among young people, and indicates that smoking while a teenager stunts lung growth, and accelerates the decline in their function as one gets older. In addition, it was determined that teenage smoking causes damage to blood vessels, which may consequently lead to heart attack, stroke, and aortic rupture.

Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin said: “Two people start smoking for every one who dies from the habit each year… Almost 90 percent of those ‘replacement smokers’ first try tobacco before they are 18.”

A study from East Boston, involving nearly 700 children, determined that young people who started smoking at the age of 15 exhaled 8 percent less air in one second, when compared against other teenagers who did not smoke. The growth of lung capacity, on the other hand, stopped a year earlier among smokers – 17 years old in girls and 19 years old in boys – when compared against non-smokers.

The percentage of air exhaled is a key measure of lung function. Ordinarily, a decline in lung function does not occur until after the age of 45 in men, but among those who started smoking as teens and continued to do so, the decline started to happen 15 years earlier.

In another study, researchers reviewed autopsy results for white men aged 25 to 34, who were killed by trauma or homicide. The results of the study showed that smokers were twice as likely to have advanced damage of the abdominal aorta, when compared against non-smokers.