Tobacco use has many proven health risks, including addiction and increased risk of cancer, stroke, reproductive health problems and death. Tobacco use also exposes others to the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.
These health issues are preventable, and prevention strategies focused on adolescents can reduce youth smoking and decrease the number of young people who will be smokers as adults.
According to statistics compiled by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2012, more than 1 in 4 people age 12 or older used a tobacco product in the past month. Estimates show that approximately 6,400 persons age 12 or older initiate tobacco use each day. Approximately 2.3 million people, about half of whom were under age 18, smoked their first cigarette in 2012.
Data also indicates that some declines in tobacco use are occurring among youth.
Rates of past month cigarette use among full-time college students declined more than 10 percent between 2002 and 2012 (from 32.6 to 21.3 percent).
During the same time period, daily cigarette use declined among current smokers age 12 to 17 (from 31.8 to 22.0 percent) and those age 18 to 25 (from 51.8 to 45.1 percent).
Community members can be a part of prevention by promoting existing tobacco prevention initiatives, identifying prevention and cessation resources and support systems for young people and adults, and raising awareness about the importance of preventing and quitting tobacco use. Everyone can make a difference in our community.
The consequences of using tobacco in any form can be devastating: increased risk of cancer, reproductive issues, heart disease, stroke and death. But prevention is possible, and is as important now as ever before, especially among young people.
It’s also important for individuals who currently smoke or use tobacco — even if only occasionally — to stop. The longer a person smokes, the more damage is done to the body. Quitting at any age has immediate benefits.
The Going Respectfully Against Addictive Behaviors Coalition recognizes the challenges ahead of us and wants to provide the community with the tools to help address this issue.
If we can educate our youth on the dangers of tobacco use, then maybe, just maybe, we can save one life. Working with our existing partners, we hope to be the example other communities in the state follow, and we want to help our state increase their efforts in prevention.
The mission of the GRAAB Coalition is to bring together concerned members and service providers of the community to facilitate lowering the misuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, as well as other addictive behaviors, in Bradley County, by providing effective education, recovery and support for youth, families and the community.
For more information on this topic, GRAAB programming or volunteer opportunities available from the GRAAB Coalition, call us at 423-472-5800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit our website for regular updates as well, www.graabcoalition.com.
(About the writer: Tanya Southerland is the executive director of Going Respectively Against Abusive Behaviors, a nonprofit organization in Cleveland and Bradley County that combats alcohol and drug abuse in this community. The organization is known by most as the GRAAB Coalition. In observation of National Prevention Week 2014, she is providing a series of guest “Viewpoints” on behalf of the GRAAB Coalition.)