Kids and tobacco

Almost all smokers start while they're young

Nearly all first use of tobacco takes place before high school graduation. A 2007 survey from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 50% of high school students had tried cigarette smoking at some point. In 2008, more than 1 out of 4 kids age 12 or older were current tobacco users -- this comes out to about 71 million American teens. Studies have shown that, for the most part, people who do not start using tobacco when they are teens never start using it.

The younger you are when you begin to smoke, the more likely you are to be an adult smoker. Almost 90% of adults who are regular smokers started at or before the age 19. And people who start smoking at younger ages are more likely to develop long-term nicotine addiction than people who start later in life.
Kids who smoke have smoking-related health problems

Cigarette smoking causes serious health problems among children and teens, including:

* Coughing
* Shortness of breath
* More frequent headaches
* Increased phlegm (mucus)
* respiratory illnesses
* Worse cold and flu symptoms
* Reduced physical fitness
* Poor lung growth and function
* Worse overall health
* Addiction to nicotine
* As they get older, teens who continue to smoke can expect problems like:
* Early heart disease and stroke
* Gum disease and tooth loss
* Chronic lung diseases, like emphysema and bronchitis
* Hearing loss
* Vision problems, such as macular degeneration

Each day, more than 3,500 people under the age of 18 try their first cigarette and another 1,100 become regular, daily smokers. About one third of these kids will die prematurely from a smoking-related disease.
Most young smokers are addicted and find it hard to quit

Most young people who smoke regularly are already addicted to nicotine. In fact, they have the same kind of addiction as adult smokers. Almost 3 out of every 4 regular smokers in high school have already tried to quit but failed. Yet out of 100 high school smokers, only 3 think they will still be smoking in 5 years. Studies show that about 60 of them will still be smoking 7 to 9 years later.

Most teen smokers say that they would like to quit and many have tried to do so without success. Those who try to quit smoking report withdrawal symptoms much like those reported by adults.
Tobacco use is linked to other harmful behaviors

Research has shown that teen tobacco users are more likely to use alcohol and illegal drugs than are non-users. Cigarette smokers are also more likely to get into fights, carry weapons, attempt suicide, suffer from mental health problems such as depression, and engage in high-risk sexual behaviors.
Spit or smokeless tobacco use is also a big problem among kids

Spit or smokeless tobacco is a less lethal, but still unsafe alternative to cigarettes. There are many terms used to describe tobacco that is put into the mouth, such as spit, spitless, oral tobacco, and chewing or snuff tobacco.

The use of spit or smokeless tobacco by any name can cause:

* Cancers of the mouth
* Cancers of the pharynx (throat) and larynx (voice box)
* Cancers of the esophagus (swallowing tube) and stomach
* Cancer of the pancreas
* Receding gums and gum disease, which can progress to the point that the teeth fall out
* Pre-cancerous spots in the mouth, called leukoplakia
* Nicotine addiction

There is also a link to heart disease and stroke. And research has shown that teens who use spit or other oral tobacco are more likely to become cigarette smokers than non-users.
Smoking bans mean more promotion of spit or smokeless tobacco

Unfortunately, the new smoking bans in effect in many states may have an unintended effect on the use of spit and other smokeless tobacco. As recommended by the CDC, many schools no longer allow students, staff, parents, or visitors to smoke on school grounds, in school vehicles, or at school functions. In light of bans like this, tobacco companies are more strongly marketing their smokeless tobacco products. Many of these new tobacco products are being advertised as more discreet alternatives to cigarettes in places where smoking is not allowed.
Using spit or smokeless tobacco to quit smoking

Some companies promote using spit or smokeless tobacco as a way to help quit smoking, but there is no proof that spit tobacco or any other oral tobacco products help smokers quit smoking. Unlike FDA-approved standard treatments that have been proven to work, such as nicotine replacement, anti-depressants, nicotine receptor blockers, and behavioral therapy, oral tobacco products have not been tested to see if they can help a person stop smoking.
Look at the numbers
Tobacco use in middle school students

The most recent numbers on tobacco use among U.S. middle school students come from a 2006 survey by the CDC.

* About 10% of students reported using some form of tobacco -- cigarettes, spit or other oral tobacco, cigars, pipes, and flavored cigarettes like bidis or kreteks -- at least once in the past 30 days.
* About 6% of the students had smoked cigarettes, and 4% had smoked cigars. About 3% had used spit or other smokeless tobacco. Around 2% had smoked pipes and the same number had smoked bidis (about 2%). A little over 1% had smoked kreteks.
* Boys (about 11%) were slightly more likely than girls (about 8%) to use some form of tobacco. Although girls were slightly more likely to smoke cigarettes, boys were more likely to use spit or other smokeless tobacco, bidis, kreteks, pipes, or cigars.

Tobacco use in high school students

The most recent tobacco numbers for high school students come from the 2007 CDC survey. Some of these numbers are slightly lower than they were in 2005. Keep in mind that these studies are done with students that are still in school. Those who drop out have higher rates of smoking and tobacco use.

* Nationwide, about 26% of high school students reported using some type of tobacco (cigarette, cigar, pipe, bidi, kretek, or spit tobacco) on at least 1 of the 30 days before the survey.
* On average, about 1 out of 5 students (20%) smoked cigarettes. Girls were almost as likely to smoke as boys. White students (23%) were more likely to smoke than black (12%), Hispanic/Latino (17%), or Asian (11%) students.
* About 8% of high school students reported using spit or other smokeless tobacco at least once in the 30 days before the survey. More than 13% of all the boys and more than 2% of all the girls surveyed had used some form of smokeless tobacco.
* About 14% of high school students had smoked cigars in the last 30 days. Male students (19%) were more likely to smoke cigars than female students (8%).
* Of all the high school students who reported that they smoked, 61% had tried to quit at least once during the year before the survey but only 12% were successful.
* Other tobacco use among high school students included pipes (about 4%), bidis (about 3%), and kreteks (about 3%).