Yesterday was the release of the 31st tobacco-related Surgeon General Report. The surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin, held a call to answer questions about the whopping 920 page document. The report focuses on the pervasive issue of smoking among youth and young adults, ages 18-25 (but let’s be honest- younger too). The report covers the epidemiology, causes, and health effects of tobacco use in this population, as well as interventions that can be used to prevent it.
On the call, Dr. Benjamin talked about prevention being the key to stopping the “smoking epidemic”- 99% of smokers begin before age 25, so if we can get youth to remain smoke free until age 26, only 1% will start to smoke.
People on the call asked some interesting questions, which sparked some good conversations. Some things discussed included tobacco-control funding being cut on local levels because of current economic strains, smokeless tobacco products (which are seen to be “less bad”, but still contain NICOTINE. Additionally, use of smokeless products and cigarettes are almost always “dual use”), the importance of mass media interventions (Aiming interventions at youth “trend setters” who influence youth culture – hipsters, counter-culture and bar-scene crowds), and how smoke free policies lead to smoke free norms, which in turn help with the overall effort of tobacco control.
I think that this report is especially exciting and pertinent to the work that we are trying to do here at the Network. There is not much data out there about smoking and LGBT youth, but you better believe the rates are even higher than the already ridiculously high numbers of non-LGBT youth smokers. And we know that things like depression, bullying, not feeling supported, being stressed, not fitting in, etc., affect our LGBT youth AND are direct contributors to smoking.
In this moment where there is a lot of national focus on youth, around issues such as tobacco and bullying, I think it’s high time we put our heads together and made some serious connections between the problems that are in front of us, and the reasons that these problems exist- whether it is systemic homophobia, omnipotent corporations, whatever….There is amazing work that is being done, with people full of experience and knowledge. I think this is a perfect time for EVERYONE to get on board and who knows? Maybe we’re on the way to making a HUGE difference…
Hope everyone’s weekend is lovely!
Oh! And here are some useful links: