Don’t Smoke Your Life Away

Nicotine: it soothes you, calms you down, it controls your mind,robs you of your last dime, and it’s holding America’s youthhostage.

Each day more than 4,800 minors smoke theirfirst cigarette. Of those at least 2,000 continue to smoke,according to the Tran disciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center.Within the past ten years the number of under age adolescentsmokers has increased by 73 percent, which is an average of 2million under age teens a year.

According to research done on 12 and13-year-old smokers by the University of Massachusetts, manychildren became addicted to nicotine almost immediately. Occasionalsmokers showed signs of addiction similar to daily smokers. Thesurvey, established three labels for smokers based upon the rate inwhich they became addicted. These three categories are “love atfirst sight,” “gradual addicts,” and “chippers.”

“Love at first sight” smokers are those whodevelop a dependence or addiction within a few days of smokingsporadically. “Gradual addicts” are those smokers that smoked dailyfor months or years before becoming addicted or infatuated.”Chippers” are the few smokers that are able to smoke up to fivecigarettes a week for years without developing the habit.

Clive Bates, the director of the anti-smokinggroup (ASH) said “This research adds confidence to the theory thatgetting addicted is not something that happens by the time you are40,” in response to the survey.

With the rapid increase of under age smokers,states like Texas and Ohio are enforcing some laws that teensdescribed as a “drag.” In Texas a new law fines teens $250 andsuspends their driver’s license, if they are caught smoking. Thelaw specifies that the possession of, purchase of, consumption orreceipt of cigarettes or any other tobacco product by a minor aviolation of the state’s health code. In lieu of the $250 fine,teens would attend a tobacco awareness seminar. Thirteen-year oldBilly Terrill of Texas is staunchly against the new law. “We’regonna die someday. We just may die a little younger. We should havea right to do it.” Terrill, a son of two smoking parents, said heis allowed to smoke in their presence.

In Cincinnati, Ohio lawmakers passed anordinance making smoking, as well as possession of or buying of anytobacco products by those under age a misdemeanor. Under this lawany child who is found in violation of this law can be turned overto the Hamilton County Juvenile Court. The punishment for the firstoffense is a $100 fine. A second offence within the same year ispunishable with up to 30 days in prison and a $250 fine.

As many college students are of the correctsmoking age, there are some smokers on our HU campus that have beensmoking for years.

For example Jessica Jones, a sophomore Filmmajor from Boston, Massachusetts said she started smoking when shewas eleven years old. “For a while I hid it from my mom. When shefound out it wasn’t a big deal and we have been smoking togetherever since,” says Jones.

At a local DC high school Sonja Johnsonresponded to the question of why she does not smoke with thisanswer; “Cancer is a killer, it doesn’t really make sense to me,it’s not really cool unless you think yellow teeth areattractive.”

Smoking is the leading cause of death in theU.S., responsible for more than 400,000 lives a year. The Centersfor Disease Control estimates that more nearly 90% of first timesmokers are under the age of 18. Of the total number of childrenwho begin smoking prematurely a third of them will die early due totobacco related illnesses.

With all of the horrible effects that smokingmay have on a person why is smoking still a major issue among ouryouth today? In the past the number of children could be creditedto the advertising use of Joe Camel. In the first four years thatthe Camel ads were featured the percentage of children smokers rosefrom about 1% to about 30%. At that time both humor and cartoon;two characteristics of Camel were used to attract kids.

Today even though the use of Joe Camel is nolonger allowed advertising techniques is still one of the majorcontributors to under age smokers. Adolescents often experimentwith different behaviors without thinking about the consequences oftheir actions. Teens for the most part tend to underestimate theaddictiveness of cigarettes and the difficulties that come withquitting.

Most teens believe that it is easier foryounger people to quit than it is for adults. In advertisementssmokers are portrayed as cool, popular, glamorous and independent.A teen that does not feel this way about his/herself might try toexperience these things through smoking. Smoking may be perceivedas an adult behavior or action children who often imitate adultsmay try to me more mature by smoking.

Studies have shown that children who haveparents that smoke are more susceptible to begin smoking at a youngage. Between the ages of 10 and 14, children become vulnerable tosmoking. The majority of those who experiment early are stillsmoking at the age of 35. Two other things that are associated withteen smoking are poor grades in school and peer pressure. Peerpressure is a huge factor in the lives of teens. Young adults whohave friends that smoke are more inclined to smoke.

The good news out of all of this is when aperson stops smoking their body begins to repair itself. Most ofthe damage that was caused by smoking can be repaired in ten years.However, if the wait is prolonged until a fatal disease such asCancer, or emphysema strikes the results may not be as positive. Soif you are a smoker especially an underage one let today be thelast day you puffed away.