Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth
Cigarette smoking and other uses of tobacco is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the U.S. Smoking cigarettes kills more Americans than alcohol, car accidents, suicide, AIDS, homicide, and illegal drugs combined. About half of all Americans who keep smoking will die because of the habit. Cigarette smoking is estimated to kill more than 480,000 Americans each year, with about 160,000 of these deaths from many different forms of cancer. Up to 1 in 5 deaths in the US each year are from illnesses related to tobacco use and about 30% of cancer deaths are smoking related.
The non-cancer deaths caused by smoking relate to a variety of diseases, predominantly cardiovascular diseases and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a disease that includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. In addition, smoking-related illness in the United States costs more than $300 billion a year, including nearly $170 billion in direct medical care for adults and $156 billion in lost productivity.
Cigarette smokers die younger than non-smokers. According to a study done in the late 1990s by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking shortened male smokers' lives by 13.2 years and female smokers' lives by 14.5 years. Men and women who smoke are much more likely to die between the ages of 35 and 69 than those who have never smoked. Stopping smoking by age 40 reduces loss of life from tobacco related causes by about 90%, but quitting at any age is likely to reduce the risk of premature death.
The prevalence of use of tobacco
In 2014, an estimated 16.8% (40.0 million) U.S. adults were current cigarette smokers. Unfortunately, among U.S. youth, smoking cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes, and hookahs, using chew and snuff, remains common. In spite of restrictions on tobacco advertising targeting youths and widespread anti-smoking educational efforts, in 2014 more than 1 in 4 male high school students (28.3%) and 1 in 5 female high school students (20.9%) were found in surveys to be current users (as defined by any use in the past 30 days) of some type of tobacco. Among high school students 13.4% reported in 2014 that they used electronic cigarettes in the past 30 days—an increase from 1.5% in 2011; and 5.5% of high school students reported current use of smokeless tobacco.
Use of tobacco by young people in any form is unsafe. If smoking continues at the current rate among youth in this country, 5.6 million of today's Americans younger than 18 will die early from a smoking-related illness. That's about 1 of every 13 Americans aged 17 years or younger alive today. Nearly 9 out of 10 cigarette smokers first tried smoking by age 18, and 99% first tried smoking by age 26, so preventing tobacco use among youth is critical to ending the tobacco epidemic in the United States because tobacco use is started and dependence occurs primarily during adolescence.
The health effects of tobacco
Smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to develop heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.
Smoking and Respiratory Disease:
Tobacco tops the list of avoidable risks for cancer
If nobody smoked, about one of every three cancer deaths in the United States would be avoided. Tobacco smoke contains more than 7000 chemical compounds, with some 250 known to be harmful and at least 69 known to be carcinogens. For example, tobacco smoke contains radioactive polonium, a known carcinogen. Smokeless tobacco is not safe, it contains more than 3000 chemical compounds including at least 28 known carcinogens. Because most of the carcinogens in tobacco smoke reach all parts of the body through the bloodstream, it is not surprising that the risk of cigarette smoking can increase the risk of many types of cancer almost anywhere in your body.
Cancers caused by smoking
The parts of the body in direct contact with smoke have the greatest increase in risk of developing cancer. Tobacco and alcohol, especially in combination, increase the risk for cancers of the mouth, larynx, and throat. Smoking increases the risk of cancers of the mouth and pharynx by eight times. One or two packs of cigarettes a day increase the risk of lung cancer about 20 to 25 times over that of non-smokers and accounts for 87% of lung cancer deaths in men and 70% in women. Even secondhand smoke increases the risk of lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent. Lung cancer is not the most frequent cause of cancer but it is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women, and is one of the hardest cancers to treat. More women in the US die from lung cancer than from breast cancer.
According to the CDC, the risk of cancer in these parts of the body are increased by tobacco use:
Other major health problems caused by smoking
Smoking contributes to many other important health problems other than cancer:
The study found that among former smokers, the relative risk for each of these outcomes declined as the number of years since quitting increased.
The implications of all of these grim statistics are clear: Do not start smoking, it is a true addiction. Avoid secondhand smoke and smokeless tobacco their risks are proven too. Although there is, so far, little data on e-cigarettes and cancer, the dangerous cardiovascular effects of nicotine are sure to remain.
And of course if you use tobacco now is the time to quit. Quitting smoking does not eliminate all of the increased risk of contracting all smoking-related diseases compared to non-smokers but the reductions are substantial. By one year after quitting, the risk for a heart attack drops 36-50%. Within 2 to 5 years after quitting smoking, the risk for stroke could fall to about the same level as that of a nonsmoker's. Quitting smoking decreases the risk for cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder by half within 5 years. Ten years after quitting smoking, the risk for lung cancer drops by half.
Factors associated with youth tobacco use
The CDC describes the factors associated with youth tobacco use to include the following:
Other influences that affect youth tobacco use include:
Reducing Youth Tobacco Use
The CDC describes the following national, state, and local program activities that have been shown to reduce and prevent youth tobacco use when implemented together. They include the following:
Some social and environmental factors have been found to be related to lower smoking levels among youth. Among these are:
Continued efforts are needed to prevent and reduce the use of all forms of tobacco use among youth.