Gift of Life activities raise awareness of tobacco’s tragic toll

Gift of Life activities raise  awareness of tobacco’s tragic toll

Members of the Gift of Life’s Youth Advisory Council are joining thousands of students across the country to commemorate National Kick Butts Day on Wednesday, March 16, an initiative that encourages youth, teachers and health advocates throughout the United States to stand up and speak out against Big Tobacco.

Gift of Life youth leaders representing 23 Southeast Texas schools will implement “peer-to-peer” awareness activities to combat the tobacco industry’s marketing efforts that target young people as their “replacement smokers” to take the place of smokers who die or quit. These educational initiatives give kids a fighting chance against tobacco-use.

Studies indicate that the vast majority of smokers start as children, and in the United States 90 percent of all smokers start while in their teens or earlier. It is estimated that more than 5.6 million children will ultimately die from smoking unless rates decline.

Although traditional tobacco use (such as smoking cigarettes) is declining among youth, findings from the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey show that current e-cigarette use among high school students increased from approximately 660,000 to 2 million students. And among middle school students, current e-cigarette use more than tripled with an increase from approximately 120,000 to 450,000 students. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which can cause addiction, may harm brain development and could lead to continued tobacco use among youth.

In 2004, the Gift of Life implemented the Don’t Smoke Your Life Away program to address the public health epidemic from tobacco usage and educate Southeast Texans on the economic impact and healthcare hazards of tobacco. Additionally, the organization formed the Tobacco Control Coalition of Southeast Texas, which strives to reduce the appeal and acceptability of tobacco products; implement tobacco cessation initiatives; and reduce secondhand smoke exposure, which will help reduce tobacco-related disease.

Tobacco use, involving smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke, is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States, and one-third of all cancer deaths are attributed to tobacco products. Smoking kills more people than alcohol, AIDS, car accidents, illegal drugs, homicides and suicides combined, with thousands more dying from smokeless tobacco use. The toll of tobacco also negatively impacts the U.S. economy. Tobacco costs the United States is more than $150 billion in lost productivity and $170 billion in healthcare expenditures each year.

For additional information about the Gift of Life and its anti-tobacco program, contact the Gift of Life at (409) 833-3663.

 

Look for a new issue of Vital Signs magazine this spring.

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