Sunday, November 23, 2008

Great American Smokeout

In 1977, the American Cancer Society launched the Great American Smokeout on the third Thursday in November. On this day every year, smokers across the country try to do what feels impossible — give up their cigarettes for 24 hours. The idea is that many will quit puffing away altogether.

I’d like to share some interesting facts from the CDC about adolescents, smoking and tobacco products:

  • Each day in the United States, approximately 4,000 adolescents aged 12-17 try their first cigarette.
  • Each year cigarette smoking accounts for approximately 1 of every 5 deaths, or about 438,000 people. Cigarette smoking results in 5.5 million years of potential life lost in the United States annually.

  • Although the percentage of high school students who smoke has declined in recent years, rates remain high: 20% of high school students report current cigarette use.

  • The younger people begin smoking cigarettes, the more likely they are to become strongly addicted to nicotine. Young people who try to quit suffer the same nicotine withdrawal symptoms as adults who try to quit.

  • Several studies have found nicotine to be addictive in ways similar to heroin, cocaine, and alcohol. Of all addictive behaviors, cigarette smoking is the one most likely to become established during adolescence.

  • Eighty-three percent of young smokers (aged 12-17) choose the three most heavily advertised brands.

It’s important that we do everything we can to prevent adolescents in our community from smoking. To address this issue at Nathan Hale High school, the prevention group, led by Amy Briggs and Christine Talianis, put up anti-tobacco posters and banners around the school. On November 20th the group members wore t-shirts with anti-tobacco messages on them as well as gave out anti-tobacco buttons and cards with the tobacco quit line phone number (1-800-QUIT NOW) to other students around the school. At lunch, Amy and Christine, armed with giant cigarettes, headed to the spot where students congregate at lunch and spread their anti-smoking message. The students were receptive and open to talking about quitting. At the moment, Christine and Lisa Sharp, Seattle Schools Tobacco Specialist, are facilitating a 6-week smoking cessation class for students who are ready to quit now. Looks like this lunch time activity might have brought in a few potential students for the next group.

At Eckstein Middle School, Christine also put up an anti-smoking bulletin board.

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