According to Kids Health, about 3,900 kids and teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 start smoking cigarettes every single day. According to the Surgeon General, 3 out of 4 teenagers who smoke will smoke as adults. Additionally, a third of youth smokers who continue smoking into adulthood die prematurely. For the past two decades, that fact has become very common knowledge. However, smoking is still a habit that has not been eradicated. According to a report published by the CDC in 2012, nearly a quarter of high school students use tobacco products. While this statistic is a significant improvement over prior statistics, the risk of nicotine addiction facing our nation’s youth is an issue that needs to be addressed.
Impressions That Last
In order to continue the trend of lower tobacco usage in regards to children and teens, it first must be understood how tobacco affects students, both physically and socially. With the illegalization of tobacco advertisements, the first exposure to cigarettes children and teens experience is often from their parents or other adults in their lives. As reported by the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, naturally, the children of parents who smoke are more likely to smoke themselves.
- A major key in reducing cigarette usage is for educators to inform parents about trying to avoid smoking around their children and, if possible, quit altogether. Elementary students may not understand the science behind why tobacco is a detriment to their health, but they do notice, and often seek to emulate, the habits of their parents and adult role models.
Tobacco and Social Structure
As a child grows older and approaches the beginning of their teenage years, the arc of influence upon them expands. The habits of peers and popular celebrities receive more attention. One survey by Parent Further found only ten percent of teens feel they have not made a decision under peer pressure. Younger students tend to admire older students. They tend to follow the lead of their older counterparts. Smoking is seen as a social activity, something to bring friends together and occupy them during conversation and social events.
- Ultimately, the root of smoking in young adults is a social issue. A solution to this issue is occupying teenagers with other more productive activities. Maintaining a variety of athletic teams and non-athletic clubs gives students an activity to meet, socialize and build bonds. Forming these bonds and friendships can ease compulsions to smoke out of social obligation, according to ECU
As teenagers grow older, they become even more complex and independent. They naturally question their friendships, routines, and the activities they maintain. As high school years progress, many teens become weary of constant guidance and pressure from parents and educators. The ECU also reports that seeing a peer use tobacco creates a desire for that same perceived freedom. The tobacco product itself is again secondary, independence is the true objective.
- To produce successful and self-reliant young adults, it is paramount that we give our youth the information and decision-making skills to make the proper choices on their own, as opposed to making those decisions for them. Communication is key.
Role Models, Educators
As role-models, educators must explain that their efforts to prevent tobacco usage comes from genuine care and concern for the health and safety of the student, and students around them. At this age, statistics and in-depth explanations of the risks associated with tobacco can be thoroughly understood. Unfortunately, they can also be perceived as efforts of control.
- To counteract this, educators must make it clear that the information is the student’s to use, and trust in the student to make the decision that is best for them when the time comes.
Helping Students Keep Smoke-Free
Educators hold the power and responsibility to educate young generations about the harm and danger associated with tobacco usage, preventing as many students as possible from falling into cigarette addiction. Many educators and institutions have made great strides in that task so far, but it is key that they stay vigilant and do not become complacent. With sustained efforts, educators can help to create a future where cigarette usage is no longer a detriment to the health of children and teens across the country.
For more motivation to quit smoking once and for all, visit The Real Cost of Smoking.
Read more about the effects cigarette smoke has on the human body at The Effects of Smoking.