Gazette opinion: Kids key to preventing tobacco use

2010-03-24T00:00:00Z Gazette opinion: Kids key to preventing tobacco use The Billings Gazette
March 24, 2010 12:00 am

Montana is making progress on preventing children and teens from smoking. The proportion of Montana youth smoking declined from 27 percent in 2000 to 16 percent in 2008, according to the Montana Tobacco Use Prevention Project. The use of chew tobacco among adolescent boys dropped from 18 percent to 15 percent in the same period.

The battle to keep our kids tobacco-free is critical to their health for a lifetime. Ninety percent of adult smokers started before they were 18 years old, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the American Cancer Society. If people don’t use tobacco as children or teens, they probably never will.

Unfortunately, thousands of Montana youth and millions of young Americans are still smoking. And Montana high school students’ (mostly boys) use of smokeless tobacco products remains substantially worse than the U.S. average. Smokeless tobacco contains 28 known carcinogens and increases the risk of mouth and pancreatic cancers, gum disease, heart attack and stroke, according to the FDA.

Wanting to quit

Despite mountains of evidence that smoking damages nearly every organ in the human body, is linked to at least 15 different cancers, accounts for about 30 percent of all cancer deaths, and costs billions of dollars each year, one in five Americans still smoke, according to the Cancer Society. The nicotine in tobacco products is highly addictive; if quitting were easy, fewer people would smoke or chew. Seven in 10 adult Montana smokers reported that they were either preparing to quit or thinking about quitting, according to four years of Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services surveys of smokers. Fifty-five percent of Montana men who chew reported that they want to quit.

The tobacco industry spends vast sums to market its products. According to the Montana Tobacco Use Prevention Project report for 2009, the tobacco industry spent an average of $42 million annually to market its products in Montana. In contrast, the MTUPP had annual funding of $9.44 million in 2009. The prevention program was created by a voter initiative and receives 32 percent of the annual payments the state receives from the tobacco liability settlement.

Kick Butts Day

Today is the 15th annual Kick Butts Day, a nationwide effort sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids to persuade young Americans to live tobacco free. Scheduled Kick Butts activities include:

• Students from Montana State University in Bozeman doing a tobacco-free campus promotion at the student union.

• At Lockwood Schools, students involved in the reACT (React Against Corporate Tobacco) tobacco-free program plan to wear their reACT T-shirts. A health promotion display at the school will feature a paper chain with each link representing one of 500 Montanans who have died due to the harmful effects of tobacco. 

• ReACT members of Red Lodge will create awareness about “Green Tobacco Sickness” by wearing green gloves on the street and passing out informational cards.

The solution to the health problems of tobacco use and addiction starts with America’s youth. Congratulations to the Montana kids who know that tobacco-free is the smart choice for them.

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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