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Starting Young: The Reasons Why

Filed Under: Baby and Child Health at 1:42 pm | By: Susan Coyle, Senior Editor
CigaretteThe vast majority of smokers start before their 21st birthday, so it’s logical to assume that if you can make it through your teens cigarette-free, you’ll make it through life the same way. As a society, we’ve latched on to that assumption. Children’s television shows are peppered with anti-smoking messages. Educational programs begin in elementary school. Parents are encouraged to talk to their children as early as possible. We try to stub out the cigarette before it’s even lit. However, every day 6,000 children start smoking.  Why?

It’s a question that is keeping researchers busy. They are constantly attempting to find correlations and thus methods to end youth smoking. Recent studies have looked to lifestyle factors such as dieting, working and movie-watching. After comparing the eating and smoking habits of nearly 8,000 teenagers, researchers concluded that girls on diets were more than twice as likely to smoke. Boys, on the other hand, increased their odds if they started then stopped dieting.  A separate study found that teens were at a higher risk of smoking if they worked more than 10 hours a week.  And those who witnessed the most on-screen puffing were 77 percent more likely to begin and 86 percent more likely to become established smokers.  Why exactly these factors are so dominant in smoking-risk is unclear. But, one thing is certain: These increased chances need to be counteracted, before the teens even think about their first inhalation.

You see, the first puff can equal addiction. Two-thirds of teens who feel relaxed after their initial cigarette go on to become regular smokers. If the calm feeling persists, with each pack, they are more  likely to be unable to quit.  Therefore, the possibility of lighting up, just once, has to be eradicated. We’ve already taken numerous steps to teach kids about the dangers of nicotine, but clearly something isn’t working. Too many opportunities still exist. So, let’s reevaluate. Let’s take into account the risk factors researchers are discovering each day and take steps to make them less risky. And, let’s make sure that kids know even one drag can become a lifetime of addiction.

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