While fewer teens smoke cigarettes than two decades ago, smoking is still a very real problem – and a deadly one. March 19th is National Kick Butts Day, a day designed to encourage young people to stand up and speak out on the dangers of Big Tobacco. Smoking is one of the deadliest habits, costing the United States more than $96 billion in health care costs and $97 billion in lost productivity every year!
Every day, more than 3,000 children (mostly teens) light up their first cigarette. While kids are influenced by their parents, friends, and even celebrities/media, Kick Butts Day is an opportunity to fight back, and educate/raise awareness of the dangers of smoking. Most importantly, Kick Butts Day is a day that teens, teachers, and health advocates will encourage kids to not only abstain from smoking cigarettes themselves, but to increase efforts to protect teens and even younger children from the potentially fatal and addictive habit.
Certainly lung cancer is widely recognized as one of the biggest risks associated with smoking, but there are many other dangers which can be attributed to tobacco use. These include other types of cancer, lung diseases such as emphysema and COPD, heart and cardiovascular disease, gum disease, the development of hypertension (high blood pressure), and an increased risk of heart attack.
How can parents, teachers, and others keep our kids from starting this highly dangerous habit? First of all, don’t set the example. Children and teenagers often emanate what their parents and others they look up to do, so if you smoke, stop. It’s also important that kids are thoroughly educated about the dangers of smoking and tobacco use. Set rules, and clearly explain why kids should never start something that can be so habit forming, addictive, and ultimately, deadly.
Here are a few tips to help prevent or discourage kids from smoking:
- Reinforce the risks of using tobacco throughout a child’s life, beginning at an early age.
- Talk to your kids. What makes smoking appealing – or even disgusting? Listen to what your children have to say.
- Encourage participation in sports and other activities that typically prohibit the use of tobacco or smoking.
- Work to build self-confidence in your child. Confident teens are those who can walk away from peer pressure; always reinforce and praise those things kids do right, rather than focusing on the bad.
- Set rules for your home, but also stress that smoking doesn’t look “cool,” but rather makes the smoker smell of smoke, age quicker, zaps energy, and ultimately affects not only their own health, but the health of those around them.
The statistics regarding tobacco use may surprise you. Here are a few national stats, and statistics for the state of Michigan:
Currently, the percentage of high school students who smoke in the U.S. is 18.1%, or 3.4 million. In Michigan, approximately 80,000 students, or 14%, currently smoke.
Nationwide, 700 kids younger than 18 years old become regular or routine smokers each day; 27 kids under 18 years of age become regular smokers each day in Michigan.
800 million packs of cigarettes are smoked by kids every year nationwide; in Michigan, just over 20 million packs of cigarettes are smoked or purchased by kids under 18 each year.
19% of adults in the U.S. smoke tobacco which equates to 43.8 million people. In Michigan, 23.3% of the adult population smokes, which is about 1,774,600 people.
About 400,000 people lose their lives due to smoking every year in the U.S. In Michigan, just over 14,000 adults die annually because of smoking cigarettes.
Michigan Law and Tobacco Use
Not only is smoking a dangerous and potentially deadly habit, there are criminal penalties associated with tobacco use as well. Adults often purchase cigarettes or tobacco for underage kids; businesses may sell to a minor without verifying his or her age. Teens may also produce fake ID’s, or steal tobacco products.
In Michigan, penal code 722.641 makes furnishing tobacco products to a minor a misdemeanor criminal offense; those who sell, give, buy, or otherwise provide cigarettes or other tobacco to kids under 18 may face a $50 fine for each violation. In addition, minors who purchase tobacco products may subject to criminal penalties.
In September of 2013, the Michigan Senate unanimously approved a bill which would increase penalties for either merchants who sell cigarettes to minors, or underage teens who attempt to buy them. Senate Bill 311 would increase fines for first-time offenders from $50 to $100. Repeat offenders would face fines of as much as $500.
Smoking cigarettes or using tobacco products just isn’t smart, whether for adults or teens. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance, and takes the lives of hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens every year. Grabel & Associates recognizes Kick Butts Day and encourages others to help spread the word.