by Geneva Gleason
Think back to the last time you saw someone smoking a cigarette. Maybe you were in a big city, or maybe it was someone around the corner from WHS. Maybe it was Sandy in Grease, right before she finally gets together with Danny Zuko. Despite both bold labels that warn “Smoking kills” on most boxes of cigarettes and the known association of smoking with lung cancer and emphysema, there are still many people who smoke. Fifty years after the Surgeon General’s first report on smoking and health, published in 1964, the question is whether smoking can still be considered an epidemic in the United States.
An estimated 8 million Americans avoided premature death as a result of tobacco control efforts inspired by the 1964 report, according to npr.org. Since then, 31 more reports have been released to increase public understanding of the risks of tobacco use, according to surgeongeneral.gov. Campaigns to reduce public tobacco use have included cigarette warning labels, higher taxes on tobacco products and augmenting restrictions on where people can smoke, according tonpr.org.
In New Jersey, laws have been enacted over the years to protect the public from the dangers of cigarette smoking. In fact, New Jersey is 1 of 4 states in which the age to buy tobacco products is 19 instead of 18, according to njgasp.org.
Due to the New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act, signed into law in 2006 by Governor Jon Corzine, almost all indoor workplaces and public places now must be completely smoke-free, according to njgasp.org.
Teen tobacco use
Despite legislation and reports by the Surgeon General, teenagers are especially susceptible to the pressure to smoke. According to lung.org, about 3,900 teens under the age of 18 try their first cigarette every day. While there are obviously physical health concerns associated with smoking, teen smokers are also more likely to have panic attacks, anxiety disorders and depression, according to dosomething.org.
Some teens still start smoking despite such risks. The media and effective advertising seem to have a lot to do with it. According to lung.org, teens exposed to the greatest amount of smoking in movies are 2.6 times more likely to start smoking. Also, exposure to pro-tobacco marketing doubles the chances of children and adolescents starting to smoke.
Said Health Teacher and School Nurse Ms. Carole Stavitski, “Research has found that...people who smoke for a long period of their life started smoking as early as 16.”
Current cigarette smoking among middle and high school students declined between 2000 and 2011, according tocdc.gov. Prevention efforts must focus on youths aged 18-25; few start smoking after age 25, and progression from occasional to daily smoking almost always occurs before age 26, according to surgeongeneral.gov.
If you or someone you love needs help to quit, visit smokefree.gov.