group_of_gradsAs the school year comes to a close, it is easy to get excited about what lies ahead. We quickly find our calendars filled with activities, friends, family, and vacations. Whether it is earning money at a summer job, going to camp, getting ahead at summer school, or visiting museums and libraries, the summer offers opportunities and excitement for our school-age youth. The summer also provides a gentle hope for new beginnings in the coming academic year. As a recent graduate, or a student simply promoting to the next grade, the hope for a new beginning is exciting and daunting.

Let’s make one of these new beginnings a year where students or young adults give their bodies a fresh start and quit smoking.

The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in April 2015, found that 4.6 million students in middle and high school (grades 6-12) use at least one tobacco product, and 2.2 million use two or more tobacco products. These numbers have not changed significantly since 2011. Tobacco use, in any form, is unsafe for teens. The CDC notes that nicotine exposure during this age range impacts critical brain development and may have long-term consequences including inhibiting brain development.

We need to keep kids safe from the harmful effects of tobacco use and smoking. The CDC report shows slight decreases in usage of cigarettes and cigars among teens and attributes that decline to comprehensive smoke-free policies and national media campaigns promoting prevention strategies. While this is positive momentum for health among teens, the decline in cigarette usage was offset by an increase in e-cigarette and hookah usage. A national decline in cigarette usage is a step forward to keep kids safe, but comprehensive smoke-free policies in Kentucky would protect all kids in indoor public places from the harmful effects of smoke and help reduce teen tobacco use. Let’s help kids make the easy and healthy choice to never start smoking or to quit smoking altogether.