Tobacco – Your child's gateway to drug addiction
Every year in the U.S., over 438,000 people die from tobacco-caused disease, making it the leading cause of preventable death. Tragically, each day more than 1,300 kids become regular, daily smokers and between one-third and one-half will eventually die as a result of their addiction.
Cigarettes, cigars and spit and pipe tobacco are made from dried tobacco leaves as well as ingredients added for flavor and other properties. More than 4,000 individual chemicals have been identified in tobacco and tobacco smoke. Among these are more than 60 chemicals that are known carcinogens (cancer-causing agents).
The American Cancer Society reports that there are hundreds of substances added to cigarettes by manufacturers to enhance the flavor or to make the smoking experience more pleasant. Some of the compounds found in tobacco smoke include ammonia, tar, and carbon monoxide. Exactly what effects these substances have on the cigarette smoker's health is unknown, but there is no evidence that lowering the tar content of a cigarette improves the health risk. Manufacturers do not usually give out information to the public about the additives used in cigarettes, so it is hard to know the health risks.
Addiction is characterized by the repeated, compulsive seeking or use of a substance despite its harmful effects and consequences. Addition is defined as physical and psychological dependence on the substance. Nicotine is the addictive drug in tobacco. Regular use of tobacco products leads to addiction in a high proportion of users.
The American Cancer Society also states that while nicotine is a very addictive drug, and that people usually try to quit many times before they are successful, there are many benefits in quitting smoking as was outlined by the US Surgeon General even as early as September, 1990. At that time, the Surgeon General listed the following benefits:
- Quitting smoking has major and immediate health benefits for people with and without smoking-related disease.
- Former smokers live longer than continuing smokers. For example, people who quit smoking before age 50 have one-half the risk of dying in the next 15 years compared with people who keep smoking.
- Quitting smoking decrease the risk of lung cancer, other cancers, heart attack, stroke, and chronic lung diseases such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
- Women who stop smoking before pregnancy or during the first 3 to 4 months of pregnancy reduce their risk of having low birth-weight baby to that of women who never smoked.
- The health benefits of quitting smoking are far greater than any risks from the small weight gain (usually less than 10 pounds) or any emotional or psychological problems that may follow quitting.
One safe and effective method to help people become smoke-free is the Cooper-Clayton Method (see links below for more information).
What can be done to prevent this public health epidemic?
The American Lung Association works at the federal, state and local level to pass laws and implement policies that will lessen the burden of tobacco on our families, communities and nation.
For additional information regarding tobacco prevention, cessation and public policies, please visit the following sites: