Teen Smoking: the Actual Extent of the Issue

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All around the world, smoking is a big issue because it kills numerous people. However, it gets even worse because others can also get affected by smokers nearby. Youth smoking is a problem since there are a lot of adolescents who smoke, it is a dangerous behavior, a lot of things cause them to smoke and increase the number of users, people’s thoughts about some types of cigarettes are not negative, and there are different side effects of it. In spite of it, to solve this problem, there should be better education and strict regulations on it.

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Even though some people even say antismoking activists chose to focus on young smokers because adults have the right to smoke, I think there are a lot of young age smokers, who have a very high risk to smoke in the future. Currently, numerous children are smoking. Roughly 3,000 children smoke their first cigarette every day, and over 21% of eighth-graders used cigarettes. (Jonathan Gruber 2000). We should be concerned about young smoking because it is all about childhood that results in becoming a regular smoker. And many students smoke in their childhood. Also, about 6 million students in the United States continuously smoke (Jonathan Gruber 2000). Data shows numerous teens smoke in the United States. 6 million is a huge amount of students. There are millions of adolescents right now, but no one knows how much number is going to change. We should look at this problem seriously to stop the number from inclining. Among adults who smoke every day, almost all first use of smoking happens by the age of 18 with 88%, and with 99% of first use by 26 years of age (Johanne Harvey 2016). Approximately 90% of the cases is where the students smoke illegally at a young age and become a regular smoker as they become an adult. This shows how we should focus more on smoking among youth than adults. As stated, numerous adolescents are using tobacco, and addiction is the one that makes them to continually smoke.

Smoking cigarettes is dangerous for teenagers because it is highly addictive, and the majority of teens strongly believe that they can quit cigarettes whenever they want. According to research, 5% of high school smokers said they would undoubtedly smoke five years later, but approximately 75% still smoked 7 to 9 years later (Bruce Epstein 2004). This shows how teens wanted to stop smoking but couldn’t stop due to the addiction to nicotine, a substance in a cigarette. As a result, we should be concerned when young people start smoking as addiction rates remain high. The same survey showed that about 2/3 of the youth wanted to quit, and 70% said they wouldn't begin smoking if they can make the decision again (Bruce Epstein 2004). Although smokers want to stop using tobacco and regret why they decided to smoke, they are already addicted that they can’t quit. Nicotine is even more toxic than drugs that we identify to be dangerous (American Public Health Association 2000). If nicotine is more dangerous than those substances classified as toxic and even illegal, then how dangerous is adolescents smoking be when they are at the stage of developing themselves? Besides, smoking has a link to inappropriate activities.

Another reason why smoking is negative is that it has a strong relationship and can lead to the usage of other drugs and bad actions. According to a recent report from the Surgeon General’s Office, compared to non-smoking teens, the chance of smoking teenagers drinking was 3 times, smoking marijuana was 8, and using cocaine was 22 times higher (Bruce Epstein 2004). Smoking is the gateway that leads to other drugs like alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine. These drugs can ruin a person’s whole life. Therefore, young students in smoking are a major issue. Also, tobacco use is associated with other negative behaviors such as fighting, carrying weapons and engaging in high-risk sexual behavior (Bruce Epstein 2004). Once the habit of smoking has been formed, smokers have a higher chance to start using any other substance and drugs. Meaning that one mistake to smoke probably won’t stop at smoking but will also end up at more negative behaviors and ruin the person’s life even more. Even though most people know why it is dangerous, different factors attract people to pull on cigarettes.  

There are a lot of students using tobacco due to many factors. Starting with social and physical environments, how mass media shows the use of tobacco products as a normal activity can cause young people to try (Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids 2019). According to Pew Research, more than 50% of teenagers use social media daily and more than 80% use it weekly at all ages and genders groups (Appendix A). Because media takes a huge part in adolescents’ life, they get influenced by media a lot. The companies pay cool and hot students, athletes, and celebrities and teens using media, slowly making students lose awareness and tend to think smoking is attractive. Besides, if youth see people of their age or their parents using these products, young people are more likely to use tobacco products (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2000). Because teens' decision making skill is not fully developed yet, they tend to get easily influenced by other people nearby. Biologically, there is evidence that young people may be sensitive to nicotine and they may feel dependent on nicotine more than adults (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2014). Teen smoking should be concerned because they are more sensitive to nicotine but cannot control themselves and quit smoking. Mother smoking during pregnancy can also increase the likelihood of her children being regular smokers (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2012). As stated before, this is another example of how people nearby youth can cause young people to smoke and make them harder to quit. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, youth smoking and depression, anxiety, stress and “lower socioeconomic status, including lower-income or education” have a strong connection (Connecticut's Official State Website). This shows how smoking and psychology are closely related. When students get stressed, they try to find things that can release more and more stress and eventually end up smoking. All of these factors are impacting the number of smokers to increase among youth, but the significant increase is in vaping.

E-cigarette smokers among adolescents are significantly increasing, but unlike the danger of it, students’ thoughts are less harmful compared to cigarettes. The number of students using e-cigarettes in middle and high school grew from 2.1 million in 2017 to 3.6 million in 2018—a gap of about 1.5 million teens had formed in a single year (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services 2019). This is a 71.43% increase in a year, a huge increase. Currently, vaping is a big part of teen smoking and young vapers are inclining but, the problem is that they think it is less harmful than cigarettes. Teens are more likely to vape, but less likely to smoke compared to older people (Katherine Schaeffer 2019). Different flavors in e-cigarettes and the cheaper cost per usage attracts young smokers. 22% of U.S. adults under 30 said vaping is 'very harmful' to one's health and 83% said cigarette is 'very harmful', compared to 40% from people between 30 to 64 and 48% from people older than 65 (Katherine Schaeffer 2019). Unlike the other age ranges, the young generation believes e-cigarettes are not that dangerous. Also meaning that they are more likely to smoke than older people. From 2011 to 2015, there was a 900% increase in e-cigarette use among middle and high school students (Surgeon General 2014). As stated, teens are more likely to vape. Teenage cigarette users are decreasing but it’s just that they are vaping instead. E-cigarettes are as bad or worse than traditional cigarettes and will lead people to die prematurely. 

Other people claim that unlike drugs, drunk driving, and murder, which kill thousands of students every day, the cigarette doesn’t kill any young people. However, in my thought, puffing on tobacco has different effects that harm the user that will affect the smoker’s body. One in five death is related to smoking (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2014). Tobacco harms smoker’s bodies to have a lot of dangerous diseases and illnesses. We should be concerned because out of all the death, one-fifth of death is linked to using a negative substance. Smoking causes closely 90% of all lung cancer deaths and 80% of all deaths from COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2014). Currently, lung cancer and COPD do not have any cure for it. However, the use of tobacco leads to a dangerous and incurable disease. To add more, smokers are more likely to get lung cancer than nonsmokers by 2500% (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2018). That is the same amount as 96 smokers’ death out of total 100, proving how the act of smoking is very closely related to lung cancer. According to National Center for Biotechnology Information, nicotine causes permanent changes to neural connections in several brain areas, including the nucleus accumbens, medial prefrontal cortex, and amygdala, all of which are engaged in emotional control (Johanne Harvey 2016). Not only physically but it takes a role in brain teens have to develop as they get older. Because it impacts the brain, teenage smokers are likely to be sensitive to things they don’t normally would besat. Lastly, smoking cigarettes harms almost every organ in the body, causes many diseases and generally reduces smokers' health (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2018). Not only lung cancer, but it also impacts the whole body. It will eventually lead to premature death, but it is sad teenagers think they are the “exception” from all the bad effects and continue to smoke. To make them realize the truth that they are not immune to the negative effects, there are various kinds of solutions to the problem.

There are different ways to decrease the number of students dragging cigarettes. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, school-based campaigns and media-based activities could reduce or delay the onset of youth smoking by 20 to 40 percent (Harvard Health Publishing 2007). As stated, teens get easily affected by media. Smoking advertisements constantly try to persuade teens using healthy and handsome/beautiful models so that the young believe that smoking is a cool behavior and make them think smoking is attractive. That’s why effective regulation of tobacco advertising and promotional activities targeting young people is highly likely to reduce the onset of smoking (Harvey, Johanne 2016). Also, increasing the price of tobacco will reduce the number of smokers (National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion US Office 2012). This is an easy and effective way to decrease people's usage of tobacco. However, in my opinion, I don't think increasing the price will be a good solution because it will also impact the grown-up smokers who have the right to smoke. Canada already has the most effective regulations with high tax rates, disincentive labeling, restricted marketing sales, and a ban on smoking in areas young adults are usually at (Harvey, Johanne 2016). High tax rates make it harder for teens to access. And labeling clear images and health-related alerts on all tobacco products will make the consumers think twice before they consume. Lastly, minimizing the advertisements that will influence youth to smoke for example showing athletes or hot boys/girls smoking.

Even if it is young people using tobacco products is a serious problem. There are already millions of students who smoke and the act of using tobacco is related to other drugs and even though there are a lot of bad effects, different factors cause adolescents to smoke. Smoking cigarettes at a young age is a worldwide problem. However, with campaigns and better regulation from the government, it is not impossible to reduce the young smoking population significantly. Would you choose to look cool for a few years, or live for a long time? 

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