According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is the “leading cause of preventable death — responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, including more than 41,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure.”
In Thurston County, 14 percent of adults smoke. The 2016 Healthy Youth Survey shows that 14 percent of 12th graders also smoke cigarettes. A much higher percentage — 23 percent — use vapes, and 26 percent use one, or the other, or both. Research has shown youth who use vapes are more likely to start smoking. All young people that take up smoking, or vaping, risk becoming addicted to nicotine as a result.
There are easy steps that parents can take to help their children make healthy choices about tobacco use. The CDC provides a few:
Tell them key facts about tobacco.
Tell them you don’t want anyone — including them — to use tobacco in your house or car.
Tell them, you expect they will never use tobacco, and that you will help them cope with any problems they face, including refusing tobacco, or getting the support they need to quit if they’re current users.
Be involved and engaged so that you can stay informed about what they’re doing and who their friends are.
Talk with other parents about ways to encourage children and teens to refuse tobacco.
Encourage your children’s schools to enforce tobacco-free policies for students, faculty, staff, and visitors both on campus and at all school-sponsored events off campus.
Never give tobacco to children or teens.
Set a good example by not using tobacco yourself, or by working to quit if you already smoke.
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E-cigarettes and vapes are a growing concern because of their impact on young people. While the nicotine in vapes is addictive, just as it is addictive in traditional cigarettes, the Surgeon General notes that vapes contain additional ingredients that could damage health, including:
Ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs
Flavorants, such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease
Volatile organic compounds
Heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead.
More information about the dangers of vaping for kids, and its health effects, are available through the Surgeon General’s “Know The Risks” site. There is support available to help people quit, regardless of their age. Talk to your health care provider about available options, or visit https://www.doh.wa.gov/SmartQuit for more information.