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Anti-Smoking Bill A Victory For Kids

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Dr. Ernest Levister, Jr.
The health risks of tobacco are well known, yet the rates of smoking and using chewing tobacco continue to grow. Many young people pick up these habits every year — in fact, 90% of all adult smokers started when they were kids. Each day, more than 4,400 kids become regular smokers.

So it was particularly encouraging to see President Barack Obama this week surrounded by children from the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids sign the strongest anti-smoking measure ever, calling it “an extraordinary accomplishment that will help keep children from getting hooked on cigarettes”. This landmark legislation is a clear victory for kids. With an estimated 3,500 young people smoking their first cigarette each day, the ban on flavorings alone could have significant health benefits.

Mr. Obama cited his own long struggle to quit the cigarettes he got hooked on as a teenager and praised the bill for providing critically needed protections for kids.

Studies show that African Americans smoke fewer cigarettes when compared to Caucasians, but they share a far greater burden of smoking related health problems.

It’s important to make sure kids understand the dangers of tobacco use. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States, and can cause cancer, heart disease, and lung disease. Chewing tobacco (smokeless or spit tobacco) can lead to nicotine addiction, oral cancer, gum disease, and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks.

Kids might be drawn to smoking and chewing tobacco for any number of reasons — to look cool, act older, lose weight, win cool merchandise, seem tough, or feel independent. But parents can combat those draws and keep kids from trying — and getting addicted to — tobacco.

One of the major problems with smoking and chewing tobacco has to do with the chemical nicotine. Someone can get addicted to nicotine within days of first using it. In fact, the nicotine in tobacco can be as addictive as cocaine or heroine.

Nicotine affects mood as well as the heart, lungs, stomach, and nervous system.

Giving kids information about the risks of smoking and chewing tobacco, and establishing clear rules and your reasons for them, can help protect them from these unhealthy habits.

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