News that the United States has failed to achieve its goal of reducing high school smoking surprises me as there was such confidence a few years ago that we could convince kids of the dangers of tobacco through education efforts.
It’s serious business as a third of smokers who begin in high school will die of a tobacco-related causes. I am dismayed to see teenage girls turn to smoking for weight control.
“People are getting the image that it’s cool to use nicotine as a drug,” Terry F. Pechacek of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in an interview. “We need to bring back our voice, our anti-smoking mass media campaign.”
The popularity of hookah bars and smokeless nicotine products, Mr. Pechacek said, are the modern equivalent of the banned Joe Camel cartoon in their appeal to youths. And some experts worry that the new health campaign against obesity — spearheaded by Michelle Obama from the White House — may be hampering donations to antitobacco campaigns as public health issues shift in emphasis and compete for funds.
Over all, the antismoking countermessage has been lost,” Mr. Pechacek said as the C.D.C. released its biannual survey of more than 10,000 high school students, showing 19.5 percent of them are smokers.
High school smoking rates dipped significantly to 21.9 percent in 2003, from 34.8 percent in 1995, then progress stalled, he said.
One-third of high school smokers are expected to die prematurely of tobacco-related disease, said Mr. Pechacek, the associate director for science in the agency’s Office on Smoking and Health. With about four million students graduating from high school each year, the difference between the current rate and the “Healthy People 2010” goal set by the government 10 years ago amounts to an additional 140,000 student smokers and 46,000 premature deaths for each high school class nationally.
For those of you who work with teens or whose own teens smoke, any ideas on how to combat this? I always think it is sad to visit high schools and see groups of teens huddled after school a block or two from the school lighting up, as if they were waiting all day for that puff.