Be the Change: John Letendre – The Great American Smokeout is for youth too

By JOHN LETENDRE

For the Ledger-Transcript

Published: 11-03-2023 1:14 PM

The Great American Smokeout is an annual event on the third Thursday of November that encourages people to quit smoking. It is sponsored by the American Cancer Society and is one of the largest public health campaigns in the United States.

The first Great American Smokeout was held in 1977, The Great American Smokeout has since helped millions of people quit smoking. The event is an opportunity for people to come together and support each other as they try to quit. It is also a time to raise awareness of the dangers of smoking and to encourage people to make healthy choices.  And this includes our youth. 

Of course, the best way to quit smoking is not to start, and this yearly event gives us an opportunity to look at why it is important to avoid tobacco use and vaping, especially for youth. The adolescent brain is still developing, and nicotine exposure during this time can have lasting negative effects. Let's take a look at some of the many reasons for youths to never start smoking and/or vaping.

Dangers of smoking

-- Addiction: Nicotine is highly addictive, and young people are more likely to become addicted than adults. This is because the adolescent brain is more susceptible to the effects of nicotine.

-- Brain development: Nicotine exposure during adolescence can harm the developing brain. This can lead to problems with attention, learning, memory and impulse control.

-- Other health risks: Smoking also increases the risk of many other health problems, including lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke.

Dangers of vaping

-- Nicotine addiction: E-cigarettes typically contain nicotine, and young people can become addicted just as easily as they can to cigarettes.

-- Lung damage: E-cigarette aerosol contains harmful chemicals that can damage the lungs. This can lead to lung diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

-- Other health risks: Vaping has also been linked to other health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, and seizures.

Just about everybody knows that smoking or vaping are not healthy habits.  So why do youth start anyway?  One reason is that they are often influenced by their peers. If their friends are smoking or vaping, they are more likely to do it too. Another reason is that tobacco companies and e-cigarette companies target youth with their advertising. These ads often make smoking and vaping seem cool, fun and harmless. 

Parents can play an important role in preventing their children from smoking and vaping and here are a few things parents can do to help:

-- Talk to children about the dangers of smoking and vaping: Parents should explain to their children that smoking and vaping are addictive and can cause serious health problems.

-- Set a good example. If parents don't smoke or vape, their children are less likely to do it.

-- Pay attention to children's activities. Parents should be aware of what their children are doing and who they are hanging out with.

-- Get help.  If parents are concerned that their children are smoking or vaping, they should talk to their doctor. There are resources available to help youth quit smoking and vaping. More resources are listed at the end of this article.

Youth smoking and vaping are serious problems, but they are also preventable.  Parents, friends and family can play an important role in helping youth stay healthy and tobacco/vape-free.

Resources

QuitNow-NH is a free statewide service that offers counseling, support, and resources to help people quit smoking. Call 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669) to speak to a counselor, or visit the QuitNow-NH website, quitnownh.org, for information.

Smokefree.gov is a federal website that offers a variety of resources to help people quit smoking, including a quit line, online resources and educational materials.

For the American Lung Association, visit lung.org or call 800-LUNG-USA (800-586-4872).

John Letendre is continuum of care facilitator at Cheshire Medical Center in Keene. Be the Change – Behavioral Health Task Force consists of concerned citizens and organizations in western Hillsborough County focused on educating and promoting local resources for prevention, treatment and recovery from substance use disorders and behavioral health challenges.