Although the number of heavy smoking teenagers has declined significantly over the years, the number of teens who smoke casually, (defined as 1 to 5 cigarettes per day), has skyrocketed. According to a study to be published in the September issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 79.4 percent of U.S. teens are “occasional” smokers. This shocks me as the parent of 3 children from 16 to 24; I would have said the rate was much lower than that. I hear kids saying all the time how stupid smoking is. Maybe what kids say and what kids do is different, but smoking is a hard thing to hide. Most non-smokers can tell from 10 feet away if someone has smoked a cigarette in the past 24 hours. Admittedly it is harder with young smokers to detect just from the way they look as their bodies are resilient at that age and hide it better than the adult smoker. But if they have had a cigarette anytime in the past day or so, and you are within a few feet of them, don’t you think you would be able to tell from the smell?
Still the study supposedly surveyed enough teens to claim a very high degree of accuracy. I can’t imagine what these kids are thinking. I mean a smoker is a smoker regardless of whether they smoke 2 a day or 12. The thought of so many kids exposing themselves to something as addictive as smoking is sad. It is also interesting that another study I read recently seemed to show youth these days have a high degree of resistance to the corporate world’s attempts to influence them through advertising. For some reason big tobacco’s marketing to teenagers has been very successful. But that may not be surprising since the tobacco companies know that if they don’t get someone to start smoking by 20 or 21, they have lost their chance to gain a new customer. Personally I have known a few people who seemed to start smoking in their 20′s. But if you dig down you find out they also smoked a little when they were younger. If someone gets to 21 without ever having smoked, the chance of them ever starting is almost zero.
And that is the saddest part of this new study. If it is accurate, 80% of our young people are at risk for serious addiction, health problems, and early death. Maybe Iceland has the right idea?