Tobacco-free in new school year

The 2011 Michigan Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows that 14 percent of Michigan youth currently smoke cigarettes, and another 7.6 percent use smokeless tobacco.

Additionally, children – like adults – are increasingly trying electronic cigarettes, according to the first large national study to gauge use by middle and high school students.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 2 percent of the students said they’d used an e-cigarette in the previous month, according to a 2012 survey.

That was up from 1 percent in 2011.

More kids still smoke traditional cigarettes than the new electronic ones, and it’s not clear how dangerous e-cigarettes are.

But health officials are worried. The new study suggests many kids are now getting a first taste of nicotine through e-cigarettes and then moving on to regular tobacco products, they say.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids notes that there are 15,200 new youth smokers each year in Michigan, and 930,000 kids alive today in Michigan will become smokers.

Some 298,000 of those kids will eventually die from tobacco-related disease.

“Although we have made significant progress in protecting our youth from tobacco-related health harms, we still have a long way to go,” says Kelly Rumpf, Health Educator for the Dickinson-Iron District Health Department.

“Far too many of our children are still using tobacco and are being exposed to harm from secondhand smoke,” Rumpf said in a statement. “Fortunately, there are a lot of proven methods that we know can help to prevent tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure among our kids.”

The tobacco industry now spends $8.8. billion per year-more than $24 million every day-to market their products, Rumpf said.

Much of that marketing reaches young people, she said. In comparison, Michigan funds $1.8 million annually for tobacco prevention programming.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that Michigan dedicate $121 million each year to comprehensive tobacco prevention programming, she said.

The CDC has identified evidence-based policy changes that are effective in reducing youth tobacco use and preventing young people from becoming tobacco users.

These include policies that make schools tobacco-free all day every day, at any and all school related events, both on and off campus, policies that make indoor and outdoor environments tobacco-free, smoke-free home rules and policies that make multi-unit housing smoke-free, and increasing the price of tobacco through increased taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Parents can take action to help their kids stay tobacco-free by providing a tobacco-free example, a tobacco-free home, and by talking with their children about tobacco.

Tips for talking with children include:

– Share the facts.

– Talk early and often.

– Use everyday opportunities to talk and listen.

– Be honest, direct and open.

– Make it a two-way conversation.

– Set a good example.

– Set clear rules.

– Help youth learn to say “no.”

For young people who have already begun to use tobacco and want to quit, the Michigan Tobacco Quitline provides services for Michigan youth.

Young people can call the Quitline at 1-800-784-8669 or 1-800-QUIT-NOW and receive free telephone counseling to help them quit tobacco.