A new study of teens' tobacco habits reveals disturbing misinformation about smoking

By ACSH Staff — Jan 15, 2015
A substantial minority of teens believe that occasional cigarette smoking is not so bad; worse still, a majority think that light smoking is OK. Well, it s not, and since smokers begin as teens nine times out of ten, that s the time to correct these myths.

Vaping-NOT-Smoking-225x148Two NYU medical school authors one a med student, the other a professor of environmental medicine re-analyzed data from the 2012 National Youth Tobacco Survey. In an article appearing in the journal Pediatrics, Mr. Stephen Amrock and Dr. Michael Weitzman analyzed in ultra-detail used regression model analysis to analyze in ultra-detail almost 25,000 responses to gauge teens attitudes towards light (5 or fewer cigarettes daily) and intermittent (not daily) smoking. Their results might surprise and perhaps frighten middle-school and high-school educators and parents, and provide a wake-up call for public health communicators.

In the study titled Adolescents Perceptions of Light and Intermittent Smoking in the U.S., they found that only one-third of the young people surveyed believed that intermittent smoking was cause for concern; worse, two-thirds believed that light smoking was not much of a problem. Fortunately, in this context, 88 percent agreed that regular/heavier smoking was very harmful.

ACSH s Dr. Gil Ross had this perspective: About 90 percent of adult addicted smokers began as teens. The tobacco industry is well aware of this, and I d imagine they re jumping with joy at these pervasive, dangerous myths about light and occasional smoking: they well know that such smoking patterns almost always devolve towards regular daily smoking at an increasing exposure level. We in public health communication and parents and school boards and teachers must do a better job at getting the facts about smoking s dangers at any level out to the kids. Recent data (from, e.g., the Monitoring the Future study/survey) show a salutary decline in young people s smoking rates that momentum must be maintained. The toll down the road over one-half of chronic smokers will die prematurely is too dreadful for complacency.

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