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Back to School: Growing up Tobacco-Free, Preventing Nicotine Addiction in Children and Youth

Tuesday September 3, 2019

In 2017, 10.5% of Michigan high school students currently smoked cigarettes and 23% are current tobacco users including e-cigarettes. Data from the following year indicated a sharp increase in youth use of e-cigarettes in many Michigan counties. Each year 4,400 Michigan kids under age 18 become new, daily smokers. 213,000 kids under 18 and alive in Michigan today will ultimately die prematurely from smoking.

In December 2018, U.S. Surgeon General Vice Adm. Jerome M. Adams issued an advisory, stressing the importance of protecting children from a lifetime of nicotine addiction and associated health risks by immediately addressing the epidemic of youth e-cigarette use. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, the use of products containing nicotine in any form, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe for youth. The brain is not fully developed until the early to mid-20s. Exposure to nicotine during periods of significant brain development, including adolescence, can disrupt the growth of brain circuits that control attention and learning. Effects can be long-lasting and can include lower impulse control and mood disorders. Surgeon General Adams stated, “We have evidence-based strategies to prevent tobacco use that can be applied to e-cigarettes. We must take action now to protect the health of our nation’s young people.”

Vaping is dangerous. from the Surgeon General's website

“Although we have made significant progress in protecting our youth from tobacco-related health harms, we still have a long way to go,” stated Kelley Mapes, Community Health Educator/Tobacco Treatment Specialist for the Branch-Hillsdale, St. Joseph Community Health Agency. “Far too many of our children are still using tobacco and are being exposed to the health harms caused by secondhand smoke. It is essential that we address e-cigarette use among young people, and do everything we can to prevent youth tobacco use, which can lead to a lifetime of addiction to a deadly product.”

Michigan spends $4.59 billion annually on health care costs directly caused by smoking, including $1.36 billion in state Medicaid costs. The tobacco industry spends an estimated $323 million to market their products in Michigan each year. In contrast, Michigan spends only $1.63 million on tobacco prevention and control programming. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, the younger people are exposed to cigarette advertising and promotional activities, the more likely they are to smoke, and 80% of underage smokers choose brands from among the top three most heavily advertised.

As students head back to school, The Branch-Hillsdale, St. Joseph Community Health Agency encourages parents and health care providers to talk to kids about tobacco use and to remind kids that spit tobacco and e-cigarettes are not a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes. Providing a tobacco-free example and home environment can also help to protect kids from tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure. In addition, tobacco-free school policies that include treatment options for students using tobacco products, and raising the age of sale of tobacco, including e-cigarettes and other electronic devices, to 21 years of age can help to prevent youth initiation of tobacco use and help tobacco users to quit.

For young people who have already begun to use tobacco and want to quit, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services now offers the My Life My Quit program designed specifically for young people. Youth under 18 can text or call 855-891-9989 for free confidential help with quitting smoking or other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. The My Life My Quit program offers a self-guided online program, interactive text messaging and text reminders. In addition, the Quitline itself provides services for Michigan youth of any age. 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. The Smokefree Teen website available to help young people quit.
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For more information on e-cigarettes and youth visit the Surgeon General's website.
Surgeon General website

For additional assistance with updating tobacco-free school policies, contact Kelley Mapes at 517-279-9561 x103.