Every day in the United States about 4,400 children try their first cigarette. Look into the future, and about one third of these children are expected to die from their smoking. They’ve touched their deaths, and don’t know it. Cigar smoking is about half as common among children, and just as dangerous. But tobacco use in kids is not inevitable.
According to the CDC’s November 14, 2003 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, tobacco use of any type among high school students decreased from 34.5 percent of students in 2000 to 28.4 percent of students in 2002, continuing a downward trend begun in 1997. This is good news!
Cigarette use decreased from 28.0 percent to 22.9 percent during that period; cigar use decreased from 14.8 percent to 11.6 percent; bidi use dropped from 4.1 percent to 2.6 percent; and kretek (clove) use dropped from 4.2 percent to 2.7 percent. This is a good beginning.
Where aren’t we making progress? In middle schools, where rates remain unchanged. And smokeless tobacco rates, at all ages, continue unchanged, with the dangers under recognized. And over 1,000 kids start spit tobacco every day.
If you have middle school or high school kids, consider giving them a copy of Runaway Jury by John Grisham. It’s an exciting legal thriller that helps kids see how they are being manipulated by big tobacco companies. They can have fun and change their view about tobacco at the same time.