Report: 22% of Guam students smoke - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Report: 22% of Guam students smoke

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - Did you know an estimate 22 percent of high school students on Guam smoke cigarettes? While youth smoking has declined, it's still an alarming number. The latest surgeon general's report on tobacco shed light on trends in the island's youth.

The U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin, is challenging the nation to make the next generation tobacco-free. Easier said than done however because statistics show that more than 600,000 middle school students and 3 million high school students are smoking cigarettes and locally an estimated 22% of high school students smoke.

According to Department of Public Health comprehensive Cancer Control Program and Tobacco Control and Prevention Program coordinator Cerina Mariano, teens and kids in the United States have skewed views of tobacco thanks to the media because as the report states, the more youth are exposed to tobacco advertising and promotion, the more likely they are to smoke. "It's really dangerous for your health and the risk of starting smoking early and using tobacco early will result in a stronger addiction to nicotine and will make it harder for them to quit," she said.

"They make it look sexy, they make it look appealing and several countries have taken a stand and actually taken steps to do plain labeling on tobacco products on cigarette packages and to show very graphic images and warnings to prevent tobacco use," she added.

Mariano says outside of the U.S., tobacco is marketed as undesirable. "They have pictures of cancerous lesions, people who are dying of cancer or they'll pictures of lungs that have been affected by tobacco smoke and so those are some examples in some countries in Asia they don't even have signs that market tobacco products," she said.

Mariano says it's critical to combat these misleading campaigns with education in conjunction with smoke free policies like the Natasha Protection Act of 2005, which keeps smoking out of restaurants and the tax increase on cigarettes. "Basically the result of tobacco use has had a great impact on the community our community as well as in the nation it's directly related to several chronic diseases cancer specifically is one of those," Mariano said.

Although Guam youth smoking is showing a decline, smokeless tobacco products like snuff, dip, chewing tobacco, and chewing tobacco with betel nut are on the rise. If you're a smoker and want to quit, there are free programs available to you, including the tobacco free quit line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW, which is open to youth ages 11-18 as well as adults. The report adds that each day more than 1,200 people die from smoking. Unfortunately, for every one of those deaths, at least two new youths become regular smokers, 90% of which are turned on to cigarettes before the age of 18.

For more information on Guam's tobacco control activities, visit LiveHealthyGuam.org.  And to view the full surgeon general's report as well as the easy to read guide on tobacco use and young people, visit SurgeonGeneral.gov.

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