Smoking is a terrible habit, and cigarettes are one of the most addictive substances in the world. They are also very dangerous to the health, especially for teenagers or younger children who are still growing.
With the tobacco industry being worth hundreds of billions of dollars, it’s no wonder why cigarettes are accessible to our youth. Tobacco use is one of the leading causes of preventable death in Canada and worldwide. As a result, smoking among children and teens in Canada is becoming a growing concern for parents and health professionals.
In Canada, the rate of smoking among children and teenagers has seen a steady rise over the past decades. Thus, it has become a significant public health concern. It also costs the country billions of dollars each year in health care and lost productivity. But how many children and teens are smoking cigarettes? And how can we prevent them from taking up the habit?
Prevalence of Cigarette Smoking Among Children and Teens in Canada
Surprisingly, cigarette smoking among indigenous children and teens in Canada is three times more than among other residents. Cigarette smoking is a major public health issue, and it is especially concerning when it occurs among children and teenagers.
According to the Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol, and Drugs Survey (CTADS), the prevalence of smoking among Canadian children and teens between the ages of 15 and 19 has decreased significantly over the past two decades.
In 2015, the CTADS found that the prevalence of smoking by children aged 15-19 was 10% (201,000). This was an unchanged figure from the last survey in 2013. The next survey in 2017 showed an 8% prevalence, a small decrease from 2015.
Despite the overall decline in smoking rates among Canadian youth, some groups are still more likely to smoke than others. For example, boys are more likely to smoke than girls. Boys showed a 10% prevalence while girls placed an 8% prevalence. Also, the study showed that children who live in lower-income households are more likely to smoke than those who live in higher-income households.
Factors That Contribute to Smoking Among Children and Teens
Several factors can contribute to the risk of smoking among youth, including exposure to tobacco marketing, having parents or other family members who smoke, and social and peer influences. It is important to address these risk factors and implement strategies to prevent youth from starting to smoke, including education and awareness campaigns, restrictions on tobacco marketing and sales to minors, and programs that promote healthy behaviors and alternatives to smoking.
As a parent, you’re probably already aware of the importance of preventing your children from smoking. Children who begin smoking at a young age are at high risk for addiction and can develop serious health problems later in life.
The newer wave of smoke products includes vapes and e-cigarettes. While some e-cigarettes claim to not contain nicotine, they can be used to vape cannabis products. In the past few years, these products have become more common on Canadian streets. They’re typically sold in a variety of flavors such as mint or strawberry and are available in many different forms: oils that can be vaped through an e-cigarette device; baked goods like cookies or brownies; and even candies like gummy bears that children might find appealing.
How To Tackle the Problem
Several strategies can be used to reduce the prevalence of smoking among children and teenagers in Canada:
- Implementing and enforcing policies that restrict the sale and advertising of cigarettes to children and teens: This can include raising the minimum age for purchasing cigarettes, banning cigarette sales in schools and other areas where children and teenagers are present, and restricting cigarette advertising and promotions that target these age groups.
- Providing education and information about the dangers of smoking: Educating children and teenagers about the negative health consequences of smoking can help to reduce the appeal of cigarettes and discourage them from starting to smoke.
- Promoting healthy alternatives to smoking: Encouraging children and teens to participate in activities that are enjoyable and healthy, such as sports and hobbies, can help to reduce the likelihood of them turning to smoking.
- Increasing access to support and resources for quitting smoking: Providing resources such as quit-smoking programs and support groups can help children and teenagers who are struggling with smoking addiction to overcome their addiction and live healthier lives.
- Encouraging parental involvement: Parents can play a critical role in preventing children and teens from starting to smoke. They can do this by setting a good example, talking to their children about the dangers of smoking, and enforcing rules about smoking in the home.
Why Are Cigarettes Dangerous?
The dangers of smoking are well known. Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, including 69 toxic and at least 400 carcinogenic.
Cigarettes also contain nicotine, which is highly addictive. When a person smokes a cigarette, nicotine passes from the lungs into the bloodstream and reaches the brain within seven seconds. Once in the brain, it binds to receptors on nerve cells and results in feelings of pleasure or relaxation. This effect is temporary but it takes up to 10 days for nicotine to leave the system after smoking one cigarette.
Short and Long-Term Effects of Cigarette Smoking
Cigarette smoke contains a variety of chemicals and compounds that can affect your health. Some have immediate and short-term consequences, while others have long-term effects that may be evident in years. Short-term effects of smoking include;
- Increased blood pressure
- Coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath
- Nausea and vomiting
- Euphoric feeling
The long-term effects of cigarette smoking may include;
- Greater risk for heart diseases
- Lung cancer
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Reduced fertility in men and women.
- Eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration
- Periodontal disease (gum disease)
Increased susceptibility to infection
Smoking is a dangerous habit and one that can have long-lasting effects on health–especially in children and teenagers. There are many reasons why it is important for children and youth not to start smoking, including the fact that they are still developing their brains and bodies; therefore, smoking could have irreversible negative effects on their health.
It is important to continue to educate young people about the dangers of smoking and to implement policies and programs that can help to reduce smoking rates among Canadian youth. This can help to ensure that future generations can enjoy the benefits of good health and avoid the serious health risks associated with smoking.