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A Foothold for the Leading Cause of Preventable Death

Youth is a time of experimentation and transition with regard to many behaviors – including smoking. Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death globally, and contributes to more than five million deaths per year. More than 20% of high school students report current cigarette use. More than half of youth who use cigarettes live in a home with a smoker.

For young people, the effects of smoking are immediate and deadly, and include respiratory and non-respiratory effects, and nicotine addiction. With smoking also comes the associated risks of other drug use – adolescents who use tobacco are 15 times more likely to progress to alcohol or other drugs.

In Maine, prevention efforts are working. Youth smoking rates have dropped considerably since 1997. Though dwindling rates are heartening, over 25,000 kids now under 18 will still die prematurely from smoking.

Find more facts and trends for youth smoking, in Maine and nationally, by reading the Youth Fact Sheet.

Big Tobacco’s Primary Target

Big Tobacco is talking to our kids everyday, preying on the very qualities that make them vulnerable, and working to replace customers that die from their product. Exposure to tobacco marketing, which includes advertising, promotions, cigarette samples, and pro-tobacco depictions in films, television and videos, more than doubles the odds that children under 18 will become tobacco users. As much as a third of all youth who experiment with smoking do so because of effective tobacco industry marketing.

Parents’ Influence Matters

Despite the influences of tobacco messaging, peers, and all the music, TV, and movies a child takes in, parents and caregivers are still the biggest influence in their child’s life. Parents who start early – talking to their kids about the dangers of tobacco and the ads their kids see every day – are more likely to arm their kids against the dangers of tobacco later. Spending time with kids, using fundamental parenting skills being a good role model, and protecting them from secondhand smoke can give youth the edge they need to get out of tobacco’s deadly grip.

Find out more by visiting our Parents page.

Coaches, youth athletics, schools and communities are principle components in efforts toward prevention. Visit our Communities page for more information.


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