November 16, 1995
YOUNG PEOPLE FACE SMOKING PEER PRESSURE
SPRINGFIELD, IL -- More than 50,000 Illinois teenagers take up smoking each year and young people face enormous social pressures to take up the habit, according to Dr. John R. Lumpkin, state public health director.
"The teen years are a time when important lifestyle choices are made, and decisions teens make today, such as experimenting with tobacco, can have lifelong, potentially life-threatening consequences," Dr. Lumpkin said. "Young people perceive signals, including peers and siblings who smoke, visible public smoking, the availability of cigarettes to minors and the widespread promotion and advertising of tobacco products, that make smoking appear to be the norm."
Dr. Lumpkin emphasized the importance of school-based programs that teach young people to resist the social influences to smoke and prevent what can easily become an addiction as part of the 19th Annual Great American Smokeout. This year's theme is "The Great American Smokescream."
"More than 80 percent of all adult smokers say they started before age 18, typically by age 14 1/2," said Dr. Lumpkin. "Studies show that if people do not begin to smoke as teenagers or children, it is unlikely they will ever do so."
Dr. Lumpkin said that the younger a person begins smoking, the greater risk for developing smoking-related illnesses. A third of those young people who become regular smokers will eventually die as a result of their smoking.
Dr. Lumpkin said teen smokers suffer a number of adverse health effects, including --
"This epidemic is totally preventable and the critical time to get across the message of prevention is before kids begin to smoke," Dr. Lumpkin said. "The disheartening trend, however, is an alarming increase in adolescent smoking. Between 1991 and 1994, the percentage of 8th graders who smoke increased 30 percent, and the percentage of 10th graders who smoke increased 22 percent."
As part of this year's Smokeout activities, students across the country will gather in rallies and parades and at their schools to scream out against smoking and tobacco companies, which spend about $6 billion a year in advertising to attract new smokers.
Tobacco use extracts a huge human toll of suffering and death each year. More than 400,000 people in the United States -- including more than 20,000 in Illinois -- die annually from smoking-related illnesses. These individuals would have lived on average 12 to 15 years longer if they had not smoked.
Health benefits for smokers who kick the habit are practically immediate:
The cost to our state's economy in terms of health care and lost productivity for individuals who become disabled or die prematurely from smoking-related illnesses totals $3.5 billion annually. These costs represent smokers 35 years of age and older -- the ages at which smoking-related illnesses become prevalent.
of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
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