The Decrease of Tobacco Use in Young People

July 5, 2016

Tobacco has been the cause of a health crisis in the U.S. since it was introduced. Smoking is bad – we all know that without a shadow of a doubt. There’s a ton of medical and scientific evidence of its dangers to us, it’s plastered all over tobacco products, and there’s advertisements everywhere about the dangers of tobacco use. Lately, the advertisements that are growing in popularity are the advertisements focused on young people. Fortunately, something must be working because there has been a decrease in tobacco use in young people in recent years.

Tobacco Trends

We know that cigarettes, chew, and other forms of tobacco are bad for us, but we didn’t always know this. Tobacco use has been around for thousands of years and has kept its popularity in the U.S. even after studies were done about the dangers of smoking. The tobacco industry was rich and powerful. Smoking became even more popular during the world wars when cigarettes were offered to troops for free to boost morale. You could smoke in restaurants, hospitals, and around children. Today, you can barely smoke on a sidewalk in many cities.

Tobacco trends have now changed drastically. The dramatic health issues caused by smoking has caused policy changes, a social stigma on smoking, and a better understanding of what the tobacco industry is doing in order to gain and keep smokers. For young people especially, they have the best chance to stay away from big tobacco altogether. There has been a focus on prevention and the smoking trend has been in a pretty steady downward slope.

Other Forms of Tobacco

The overall rate of tobacco use has gone down, especially in young people since it’s a lot easier to prevent tobacco use than to help addicted smokers kick the habit. However, other types of tobacco used have risen a bit. Hookahs are water pipes and are present in hookah cafés and used in a more social setting for young people. Between 2010 and 2014 the percentage of high school seniors who had used hookah in the last year increased from 17 to 23 percent. Hookahs are not any safer than traditional forms of tobacco, but the social aspect of hookah might be a cause for the slight increase in this format of tobacco use.

E-cigarettes have gained in popularity in recent years in young people especially. It’s important to note that the overall use of tobacco products is declining in young people, but vaping is becoming more popular. The fear is that the vaping trend will continue to rise. Many people utilize vaping to quit smoking, but the trend of vaping seems to be taking on a whole culture of its own in young people. However, vaping may be safer than traditional forms of tobacco use – but it’s still not safe. Not only are there health risks involved, but there has been a rise in lawsuits for e-cigarette batteries catching on fire as well. With the downward slope in tobacco use and the negative social aspect to smoking, hopefully the e-cigarette or hookah trends won’t rise and tobacco use will continue to decline for young people.

The Reason for the Decline

For many young people, the Truth advertisements are extremely familiar to them. The ads target young people specifically and appeal to the things they are into like cat videos, pets, online dating apps, and making a difference. Some of the ads can be controversial for using scare tactics to persuade young people into quitting smoking or preventing them from ever starting. Focusing on the health issues associated with smoking has done a lot for the decline in smoking, but knowledge of health risks have been discussed so frequently it can seem like white noise to younger people. Truth focuses on messages that will help get through to young people, such as, “you get double the matches if you’re not smoking in your profile pics,” or, “pets of smokers are more likely to get cancer.”

Public opinion, policy changes, and a younger generation more aware of social issues have all come together to help cause the decline in smoking overall, and especially in our young generations. Not only that, but the health problems associated with smoking is affecting our younger generation’s grandparents, parents, and other family members. The biggest aid in the decline is the science behind the health issues associated with smoking. That paired with policy changes, tax increases, providing support to quit, and banning tobacco ads, etc. have caused the decline overall.

Tobacco Projections

Tobacco use in the U.S. is expected to continue to fall in the same manner that it has been falling for years as organizations like Truth continue to work towards educating young people about the dangers of smoking. Truth’s “Finish It” campaign aimed at young people is hoping to create the next generation that ends smoking for good. With youth aged 15-21 being the target demographic for this campaign, they are utilizing their drive towards social change to help make a difference in ending smoking for good.

However, other areas of the world are not so lucky to have such forceful anti-smoking campaigns and a lack of success in big tobacco creating more customers. Not all countries around the world focus on public health risks, raise taxes, ban advertising, ban smoking in public areas, or provide support to quit – all of the things helping other countries kick the habit. So despite the projection that tobacco use for the U.S. will go down, tobacco use around the world might increase.

Our young people are going to shape the way the U.S. looks in the future, so it’s vitally important that we take care to educate them on things that are important. Fortunately, the U.S. and the organizations focused on ending tobacco use have done a pretty good job reaching our young people and as a result helped to decrease tobacco use overall in the United States. Despite the popularity of some alternative ways to use tobacco, it’s clear our young people are more socially aware than ever before and will continue to create a smoke-free future.

Author bio: Chelsy is a writer from Montana who is now living in Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree from the University of Montana in 2012. She loves her animals, listens to talk radio, and prefers her coffee cold. Follow her on Twitter!

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