September 6 – Teen experimentation with tobacco products can quickly develop into a dangerous dependency, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). However, it is a risk often overlooked during back-to-school preparations by parents of students attending middle and high school.
Despite laws preventing tobacco companies from targeting children in their marketing, the CDC says today's tobacco products are “designed for addiction” through the addition of special flavorings, and methods of delivering more nicotine more quickly. Further, the availability of smokeless tobacco products enables teens to use tobacco where smoking is banned.
Lynne DeMoor, Coordinator of the Tobacco Reduction Coalition for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, says there are many reasons parents may ignore the threat of tobacco use when preparing their kids to go back to school this fall.
“We're constantly inundated with anti-smoking messages, so parents may think, 'My kids already know the risks and they're smarter than that,'” DeMoor said. “Of course, even the brightest kids from the most stable homes can succumb to temptation if they are pressured, or just bored and wanting to test their own boundaries.”
DeMoor emphasizes that parental attitudes and behaviors play a major role in determining whether kids will experiment with tobacco. “Parents who use tobacco may not feel they can stop their kids from using it,” she explained. “It's true that children of parents who smoke are more likely to pick up the habit themselves, because tobacco products are readily accessible and smoking is already part of their lives. But rather than accepting smoking as a 'rite of passage' for their kids, those parents need to be extra-vigilant in helping their kids avoid their own dangerous addiction.”
According to DeMoor, the Health Department has been working with local school districts to adopt 24/7 tobacco-free policies – comprehensive policies that include emerging nicotine products and protect students and their families 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. “Alanson Public Schools, Pellston Public Schools, and Public Schools of Petoskey have adopted these policies,” she reported. “Many other districts in Northern Michigan and throughout the state are also in the process of updating their tobacco policies to make them more protective.”The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties.
For more prevention information, call 1-800-QUIT NOW or visit www.michigan.gov/tobacco.