October 16, 2006
Cigarettes cause health problems.
This is not new information.
Most children, teens, and adults living in the United States already
know that smoking is bad for their health. Some people may even
be familiar with the specific ways in which cigarette smoking negatively
affects the respiratory system.
during childhood and adolescence produces significant health problems
among young people, including cough and phlegm production, an increase
in the number and severity of respiratory illnesses, decreased physical
fitness, an unfavorable lipid profile and potential retardation
in the rate of lung growth and the level of maximum lung function.
Most importantly this is when an addiction forms which often persists
Many children and teens
already know that this addiction often leads to premature death.
Armed with this information, fewer children and teens are now smoking...
"If current tobacco
use patterns persist, an estimated 6.4 million current children
smokers will eventually die prematurely from a smoking-related disease.
* Although smoking rates among high school students increased 32
percent between 1991 and 1997, rates have declined by almost 40%
since 1997. In 2004, 22% of high school students were current smokers.
* In 2004, 11.7 percent of middle school students smoked."
While more and more children
and teens are learning the dangers of cigarette smoke (and more
are choosing to avoid it), the dangers of smokeless tobacco products
are less well known.
"Just like smoking
cigarettes, chewing smokeless tobacco can eventually rip apart your
body and kill you. It's that simple, really. There's no such thing
as a 'safe' tobacco product. ... The more immediate effects [of
smokeless tobacco] can disrupt your social life: bad breath and
yellowish-brown stains on your teeth. You'll also get mouth sores
(about 70% of spit tobacco users have them). But, it gets a lot
more serious than that. Consequences of chewing and spitting tobacco
* cracking and bleeding lips and gums
* receding gums, which can eventually make your teeth fall out
* increased heart rate, high blood
pressure, and irregular heartbeats, all leading to a greater risk
of heart attacks and brain damage (from a stroke) * cancer"
While the bad breath, mouth
sores, and stained teeth are enough to keep many teens from using
smokeless tobacco, others continue thinking that it is "safer"
"Oral cancer means
cancer of the mouth and can happen in the lips, the tongue, the
floor of the mouth, the roof of the mouth, the cheeks, or gums.
It's been medically proven that long-time use of chewing tobacco
can lead to cancer. But cancer from chewing tobacco doesn't just
occur in the mouth. Some of the cancer-causing agents in the tobacco
can get into the lining of your stomach, your esophagus, and into
Smokeless tobacco is not
the only tobacco alternative to which children and teens are turning.
"* In 2004, 12.8 percent
of high school students and 5.2 percent of middle school students
were current cigar users.
* In 2004, 6.0 percent of all high school students and 2.9 percent
of middle school students used smokeless tobacco.
... * Other tobacco products used by high school and middle school
students includes pipes (3.1% and 2.6%), bidis (2.6% and 2.3%)
and kreteks (2.3% and 1.5%)."
Just like smokeless tobacco,
these are alternatives -- but not "safer" alternatives.
bee-dees) are small, thin hand-rolled cigarettes imported
to the United States primarily from India and other Southeast Asian
countries. ... They have higher concentrations of nicotine, tar,
and carbon monoxide than conventional cigarettes sold in the United
States. Kreteks (pronounced cree-techs) are sometimes
referred to as clove cigarettes. Imported from Indonesia, kreteks
typically contain a mixture consisting of tobacco, cloves, and other
additives. As with bidis, standardized machine-smoking analyses
indicate that kreteks deliver more nicotine, carbon monoxide, and
tar than conventional cigarettes. There is no evidence to indicate
that bidis or kreteks are safe alternatives to conventional cigarettes."
"There is no evidence
to indicate that bidis or kreteks are safe alternatives to conventional
from India indicate that bidi smoking is associated with an increased
risk for oral cancer, as well as an increased risk for cancer of
the lung, stomach, and esophagus. Research studies in India have
shown that bidi smoking is associated with a more than three-fold
increased risk for coronary heart disease and acute myocardial infarction
(heart attack), and a nearly four-fold increased risk for chronic
bronchitis. Kretek smoking is associated with an increased risk
for acute lung injury, especially among susceptible individuals
with asthma or respiratory infections. ... Research in Indonesia
has shown that regular kretek smokers have 13-20 times the risk
for abnormal lung function compared with nonsmokers."
If children and teens know
that smoking is bad for their health, then why do they start? Some
people blame the advertising and marketing techniques used by the
"October 12, 2006
R.J. Reynolds has agreed to stop
selling candy, fruit and alcohol-flavored cigarettes in the United
States, under an agreement with the attorneys general of 40 states.
The states acted after the federal government did nothing. 'In marketing
these products to our youth, RJR violated the agreement it made
with the states back in 1998 to stop targeting kids,' said California
Attorney General Bill Lockyer. 'Hopefully, this settlement will
keep RJR from breaking its word again and ensure the company acts
responsibly to help protect children from starting a deadly habit.'"
While educating children
and teens about the health risks is helping to lower the rate of
teen smoking, the bottom line is: advertising works.
tobacco use previously was uncommon among adolescents, older teens
began using it between 1970 and 1985, at the same time that the
smokeless tobacco industry was strengthening their marketing efforts."
Advertising works, but
it is not the only way to reach teens and children. Word of mouth,
peer pressure, and real life experiential learning are also quite
"Today, 30.7% of high
school students use tobacco. Project Silenced Voices aims to change
this staggering statistic. As a collaboration of the American Lung
Association, American Heart Association and American Cancer Society,
Project Silenced Voices is committed to raising public awareness
of the health and economic consequences of tobacco use. ... In each
high school this event will consist of: * A school-wide assembly
or morning announcement sharing a brief description of the day and
important tobacco related facts and stories with the student body.
* A Silenced Voices Taskforce will visit classrooms during the first
hour. During their visits pre-selected students will be ceremonially
approached, have a short story read about how tobacco affected their
character's life, and be given a black shirt to wear for the rest
of the day. In memory of those silenced by tobacco, these pre-selected
students will be asked to remain silent the rest of the day except
for speech related to class work."
Project Silenced Voices
will take place on October 24, 2006, in over 60 Missouri schools
(both middle and high schools are participating).
""In an effort
to save others pain, several concerned Missourians have passed along
their personal stories on the devastating impacts of tobacco. ...
These Silenced Voices can still change lives."
Tobacco usage trends have
changed over the years. Education and advertising have both played
significant roles in these changes. Beyond education, beyond advertising,
there is word of mouth. There is peer pressure. There is seeing
the world from someone else's perspective.
"This collection of
stories allows those voices silenced by tobacco to be heard and
increase awareness of tobacco's dangers. We encourage you to read
these stories and share them with others as we continue on our mission
to educate the public about the health and economic consequence
of tobacco use."
Questions of the Week:
What do you and your peers know about the dangers of tobacco use?
What do you think your peers, siblings, and other family members
still need to learn and/ or understand about the dangers of tobacco
use in its various forms? What would be the best way to reach those
in your peer group with this information? What could you do (individually
or with your class) to help those in your school or community better
understand the short term and long term health risks associated
with tobacco use?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum