RICHMOND — A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration finds a little more than 3 million kids nationwide use tobacco products.
Nearly one in nine middle- and high-school students across the U.S. reported using tobacco products. E-cigarettes are the most common tobacco product youths are using.
Terrell Pollard, chairperson of Henrico Too Smart 2 Start, cited a bevy of factors why kids are taking up smoking. One reason he ascribed for this growth is parents’ role in talking about the dangers of tobacco use.
“Parents are kind of forfeiting their influence they are to have in conversations about not vaping,” said Pollard. “Or, they’re not up on youth starting these substances in the first place. And for the ones that are having the conversations, they’re not having them the older the youth gets. But, the older the youth gets, that’s when they become more autonomous.”
Other challenges with ensuring kids don’t get lured into smoking include the addictive nature of nicotine. There’s also numerous misconceptions about smoking, particularly that it relieves stress.
According to the CDC and FDA’s report, 18.3% of youths smoking reported psychological distress.
Pollard said he finds smoking early causes kids and teens to consider dealing with problems with a crutch of some kind.
Pollard said he finds misconceptions about smoking come primarily from advertising and societal conventions.
One example of this is the idea that smoking e-cigarettes is somewhat healthier than conventional cigarettes.
“When e-cigarettes first came out, they were marketed to adults as helping them get off the cigarettes,” said Pollard. “And that belief has taken root with youths – not because they’re trying to stop smoking cigarettes, but it indirectly communicates to youths that vaping is healthier than cigarettes, when the studies show when the youths vape, they’re more likely to smoke cigarettes.”
Because nicotine can be so addicting, Pollard said he hopes to prevent youths from starting smoking.
He added that kids having to quit smoking or discerning information on how to do so can be hard, but can be possible.