Teens put down cigarettes after doctor's advice

CHICAGO, ILL.; August 26, 2013

Every day, more than 3,800 children and adolescents age 12-17 years smoke their first cigarette.

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, causing over 440,000 deaths each year.

Stopping young people from using tobacco is extremely important - 88% of adult smokers report that they started their habit by age 18. By the time teens leave high school, 1 in 5 is a smoker.

For help in quitting, see the American Lung Association at lung.org.

However, studies show that when doctors simply talk to kids in the doctor's office, often those young smokers stop.

The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends doctors begin having that talk at age 5.

The AAP, and the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) published their recommendations online and in two journals, Pediatrics and Annals of Internal Medicine.

Interventions studied included office visit education, informational videos and brochures, follow up phone calls, and behavior modification counseling sessions.

The groups say that whether it was a talk in the office, informational videos, or brochures, or follow-up phone calls, the 1-on-1 advice helped reduce smoking.

Often, simple guidance in how to decline cigarettes is effective.

According to the USPSTF, parental smoking and parental nicotine dependence remain the strongest predictors of smoking in youth. Other risk factors include access to cigarettes, low levels of parental monitoring, perception that peers smoke, and exposure to tobacco promotions.

The most serious health consequences from smoking typically occur as an adult. However, children can also have negative effects to their health including poor lung growth, decline in lung function, chronic cough and wheezing, exacerbation of underlying asthma, and possibly increased rate of respiratory infections.

Experts say that in order to make a larger impact on this public health issue, help is also needed from the community, media, and lawmakers.

One idea touted by smoking cessation experts and currently being considered for law by New York, is to increase the legal smoking age from 18 to 21. Four states, including New Jersey, Utah, Alabama, Alaska, have already increased the smoking age from 18 to 19.

The thinking is that raising the age to 21 would decrease teen smoking rates dramatically, as many youngsters currently obtain their cigarettes from older adolescents who are 18 and 19.


We need to do everything we can to reduce a young person's opportunity to their first cigarette or to go from experimenting to becoming addicted," wrote Dr. Michael Steinberg, director of The Tobacco Dependence Program at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ.

Steinberg is the co-author of a commentary published online with the USPSTF's recommendations in the Annals of Internal Medicine, discusses the pros and cons of this proposal.

Critics cite that if New York implements this law, then small businesses and the city will lose tax revenue, it will be hard to enforce, and will impinge upon individual rights.

Proponents of the proposal argue that it will be no harder to enforce this than the current age limit, and potential benefits of alleviating the significant health dangers that are involved far outweigh any risks of potential decreased revenue.

In 2011, 18% of high schoolers, the majority being Caucasian and male, and 4% of middle schoolers were smokers, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

This report was prepared with assistance from Amy Ondeyka, MD</p>

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