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Help youth stay tobacco-free by talking

According to the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 11.8 percent of Michigan high school students currently smoke cigarettes, 6.9 percent use smokeless tobacco, and 10.7 percent currently smoked cigars. Each year, 8,100 Michigan kids under age 18 become new, daily smokers, and 213,000 kids alive today in Michigan will eventually die from tobacco-related disease. In addition, e-cigarette use among U.S. middle and high school students is on the rise. In 2015, 16 percent of U.S. high school students and over 5 percent of U.S. middle school students reported using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, youth are sensitive to nicotine and can feel dependent earlier than adults. Nearly nine out of 10 smokers start smoking by age 18, and because of nicotine addiction, about three out of four teen smokers end up smoking into adulthood, even if they intend to quit after a few years.

Although we have made significant progress in protecting our youth from tobacco-related health harms, we still have a long way to go stated. Far too many of our children are still using tobacco and are being exposed to the health harms caused by secondhand smoke. It is essential that we address e-cigarette use among young people, and do everything we can to prevent youth tobacco use, which can lead to a lifetime of addiction to a deadly product.

As students head back to school, Public Health, Delta and Menominee counties encourages parents and health care providers to talk to kids about tobacco use and to remind kids that spit tobacco and e-cigarettes are not a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes. Providing a tobacco-free example and home environment can also help to protect kids from tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure.

For young people who have already begun to use tobacco and want to quit, the Michigan Tobacco Quitline provides services for Michigan youth of any age. Young people can call the Quitline at 1-800-784-8669 or 1-800-QUIT-NOW and receive free telephone counseling to help them quit tobacco. In addition, the Quitline offers a free text messaging program and a self-guided online program to help youth quit tobacco. The Smokefree Teen website available at teen.smokefree.gov/ provides tools to help young people quit.

Daily Press (Escanaba)