Is America's First Tobacco-Free Generation Just Around The Corner?

(3BL Media/Justmeans) –  Globally, for the last 50 years we have known that people who smoke cigarettes are more likely to develop and die from certain diseases than people who don’t smoke. In America alone, more than 20 million people have died because of smoking since 1964. However, 2.5 million were also nonsmokers who died, because they inhaled secondhand smoke, which is air polluted by other people’s cigarette smoke. Sadly, it is not only adults who are at risk, as about half of all the children between ages three and 18 years in the U.S. are exposed to cigarette smoke regularly, either at home or in places such as restaurants that still allow smoking. 

For decades, the tobacco industry has been encouraging us to smoke through images that make smoking appealing in films and on television. As a result of this marketing by the tobacco industry, more than 3,200 children younger than 18 years old smoke their first cigarette every day in America. Nearly nine out of 10 smokers start before the age of 18, and 98 percent start smoking by the age of 26. Every adult who dies early because of smoking is replaced by two new, young smokers; if current risks hold, one of the two also will die early from smoking.

Many smokers choose to smoke in spite knowing the health risks because they are addicted to the nicotine in the tobacco. It only takes ten seconds for the nicotine from one puff of smoke to reach the brain and this rapid delivery of nicotine from the lungs to the brain is one of the reasons that cigarettes are so addictive. The nicotine causes cells in the brain to release dopamine; one of the main effects of dopamine released in the brain is to create a heightened sense of alertness and contentment. Over time, the brain cells of smokers are changed to expect the regular bursts of extra dopamine that result from smoking. When a smoker tries to quit, these brain changes cause strong cravings for more nicotine.

So, what will it take to be the first tobacco-free generation in America? Is it at all possible? Attempting to create this change is CVS Health, which has launched Be The First, a $50 million, five-year commitment, funded through the company and the CVS Health Foundation, to help deliver the nation’s first tobacco-free generation through education, advocacy, tobacco control and healthy behavior programming. The CVS Health Foundation has partnered with Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education and media company, to introduce a school-based tobacco-prevention education program that teaches children about the health consequences of tobacco use and why it’s important to never start. 

Taking this conversation to a wider audience, on April 5, 2016 at 3:30pm EST, there is a LIVE Twitter conversation talking about the importance of tobacco-free living, with the hashtag, #BeTheFirst with CVS Health (@CVSinAction) and Scholastic, represented by @ParentandChild and @Choices_Mag. 3BL Media (@3BLMedia) will be moderating. It promises to be a lively engaged conversation.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia