Anti-tobacco forces were in town last week to kick off the campaign to ban smoking in bars, video lottery establishments and Deadwood casinos.
Whether you favor that measure or not, most adults would agree that teenagers shouldn’t smoke.
Sad to say they smoke in greater numbers than adults.
When the South Dakota Tobacco-Free Kids Network was formed a decade ago, a whopping 44 percent of the state’s high school students were smoking cigarettes.
Katherine Kinsman, who at the time was serving as South Dakota’s Secretary of Health, said that was one of the highest rates of smoking among youths in the nation.
That led to formation of the Tobacco-Free Kids Network, which has grown over the past decade from 18 members to 53 statewide organizations. The consortium of health, education, parent, youth, law enforcement and other civic groups took on the onerous task of reducing the number of teen smokers. They’ve made great strides.
Today, roughly one out of every of four teenagers in South Dakota smokes cigarettes. That reflects a significant drop over the past decade, but it’s still a troubling statistic.
Each day 1,100 new children will become addicted to smoking, the same number of South Dakotans killed each year by cigarettes. A third of those addicted teens are just as likely to die prematurely from tobacco-related diseases – unless they stop smoking.
Tobacco is even more addictive in teens, highlighting the compelling need to discourage smoking by young people.
By the time they grow up and realize how destructive and deadly the habit can be, their addiction will be that much harder to kick .
Regardless of the outcome of the November vote, state officials should maintain their efforts to discourage teens from smoking.
Studies have shown that the children of smokers are more likely to take up the habit themselves.
It might be too late for parents who have been smoking for years and have no desire or self discipline to quit. That’s no reason for teens to take up a habit that will harm their health and take years off of their lives.
Educating youth about the hazards of smoking and encouraging businesses to respect the law that makes it illegal for minors to purchase cigarettes are a good place to start in the war on smoking among teens.
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