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Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth

Smoking is bad for our health, and bad for society—and the younger a person first tries tobacco products, the greater the likelihood that they will become a regular or daily user. In 2019, the federal minimum age of sale for tobacco products was raised from 18 to 21. This minimum age protects youth from serious health risks and premature death—and helps to prevent them from ever becoming smokers.

Almost all smokers start young

  1. 85% of adults who smoke on a daily basis had their first cigarette by age 18 years
  2. Four out of five adults who smoke become regular, daily smokers before age 21
  3. Because their brains are still developing, youth are especially likely to become addicted to nicotine—and they’re more vulnerable to its harmful effects.

Nicotine can disrupt the young smoker’s brain development, causing:

  1. Reduced attention, learning, and memory
  2. Lower impulse control
  3. Mood disorders
  4. Higher susceptibility to addiction

The risks to a smoker’s health are severe—and can be fatal

  1. Harms nearly every organ of the body
  2. Puts a strain on the heart
  3. Damages the lungs
  4. Causes more than 480,000 deaths (nearly 1 in 5) each year in the U.S.
  5. Causes half of all long-term smokers to die prematurely

Vaping is not a healthier alternative

  1. Vapes generally include high levels of nicotine, heavy metals, and other harmful chemicals linked to lung cancer
  2. Vapes can have an even higher percentage of nicotine than cigarettes—and users aren’t limited to a number of puffs at a time
  3. Youth who vape are highly likely to also use other tobacco products, like cigarettes
  4. Vaping is linked to higher frequency and intensity of future cigarette smoking

Smoking can affect more than just the smoker. Secondhand smoke:

  1. Contains thousands of chemicals, including hundreds that are toxic and about 70 that can cause cancer
  2. Poses health risks including heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer
  3. Is a leading cause of death in the U.S.

Delaying the age when a child first tries tobacco products:

  1. Reduces the likelihood that they will ever become regular or daily tobacco users
  2. Increases their chances of successfully quitting, if they do become regular users

For Parents

Talking with Your Child About Smoking & Vaping

Parents are the biggest influence in their children’s lives, which is why it’s so important to have frequent discussions about the risks of smoking and vaping. Don’t assume that your child knows how you feel or what the rules are—be clear about your expectations!

  1. Keep an open door, and an open mind. Foster a strong relationship and healthy communication with your child. They'll be more likely to talk to you—and more likely to listen.
  2. Start early. Most smokers start before age 18 and today 1 in 5 high school students use e-cigarettes. It’s never too soon to start the conversation about smoking.
  3. State the facts. Tell your child about how smoking and vaping use can impact their brain, sexual, and overall physical development.
  4. Set the rules. Set clear, specific rules about—and consequences for—smoking and vaping. Ensure that your rules are enforceable: a lack of consistency sends mixed messages to your child.
  5. Keep checking in. Open, ongoing conversation is a reminder that your child has a caring person they can turn to with questions or if problems arise.

Resources for Parents:

For Retailers

Merchants: Do Your Part to Prevents Underage Tobacco Sales

It’s the Law! Adopting responsible policies and practices regarding tobacco product sales to underage youth is good for your business—and your community.

  1. Create a detailed written policy that includes:
    • How and when ID checks are to be performed
    • What forms of ID are acceptable
    • What to look for when checking an ID
    • When a sale should be refused
    • The consequences for failing to perform an ID check
  2. Train all employees to follow this policy and review it with them periodically.
  3. Post signs to show customers that you are committed to checking IDs.

Resources for Store Owners & Employees:

Resources

Learn More About Underage Smoking & Vaping