Every day, thousands of young people try their first cigarette and new non-combustible products are making it easier for kids to experiment with tobacco.

3,200

Around 3,200 young people try a cigarette for the first time each day

Around 3,200 young people try a cigarette for the first time each day and nearly 2,100 youth and young adults become daily smokers. These statistics do not include the young people who try other forms of tobacco every day—from cigars, cigarillos and hookah, to new non-combustible products that deliver tobacco in the form of mints, breath strips and toothpicks—which make it easier to experiment. Of particular concern is the burgeoning popularity of electronic cigarettes, devices that warm a nicotine solution to produce an aerosol that is inhaled without the combustion of tobacco. To date these products have been unregulated, while their usage tripled among middle and high school students between 2013 and 2014, according to a 2015 report by the Center for Tobacco Products. Some e-cigarette marketing campaigns appeal to youth.

Unless innovative approaches are employed to dramatically decrease its use, the U.S. Surgeon General estimates that 5.6 million young people alive today will die prematurely from tobacco. Many more will live lives that have been compromised by its devastating effects.

Nearly all smoking initiation occurs before the age of 26, and the younger that someone is when she or he starts using tobacco, the more likely she or he will become addicted. In fact, signs of nicotine addiction appear in some youth in as little as two weeks after they start using tobacco. This can speed their transition from sporadic use to regular daily smoking. Young smokers also show signs of early cardiovascular disease as well as decreased lung function and retarded lung growth which increase the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease later in life.

It appears that while young people have increasingly negative attitudes toward smoking and smokers, many accept its use in social contexts because they incorrectly make a distinction between “regular smoking” and “social smoking.”

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2015 that examined the instances among young women of “very light smoking” (five or fewer cigarettes per day) makes clear that “any level of smoking is harmful to young women’s health.”

key
takeaways

  • 5.6

    Without aggressive intervention, 5.6 million young people alive today are projected to die prematurely from tobacco use.

  • 2,100

    About 2,100 youth and young adults become daily smokers every day.

  • 26

    Nearly all smoking initiation occurs before the age of 26. The younger that someone is when she or he starts using tobacco, the more likely she or he will become addicted.

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