It’s no revelation that the majority of people in the United States who smoke cigarettes began as teenagers. Here are some revealing statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2006 National Survey on Drug Use & Health on the fires beneath the smoke.
25% of all cigarette smokers, over age 12, use illicit drugs verses 5% of non-cigarette smokers.
43% of cigarette smokers binge drink verses 16% of non-cigarette smokers.
From 2002 to 2006 10.7 million people began smoking cigarettes for the first time. 7 million, or 65% of these new smokers, were under age 18.
The next time you see four high school aged kids smoking cigarettes know that, according to current statistics, one of them uses illicit drugs and two of them binge drink.
The good news is they can quit, but what these numbers don’t reveal is why they start.
Looking back at my own teenage experience, these numbers seem accurate. In my memory those who were heavy drinkers and those who smoked whatever they could get their hands on, wanted to feel something. They wanted to feel connected while they passed through a twisted age of disillusionment. Many of them were smart, they could see through the hypocrisy in adults and their minds never stopped trying to figure out solutions to their problems. Unfortunately they were often treated with disdain, taught double standards, and left to fend for themselves by parents who were emotionally absent.
Of course I’m generalizing. There are plenty of teenagers who don’t experience any of this and make it to adulthood just fine. Yet, I wonder if you can look at your kids and see their future? Can you tell which one is most likely to be the kid who smokes, drinks, and uses drugs? If you think you can tell, or if you can’t tell, what are you going to do? What are you going to change about yourself, today, to make a difference? What is the trade off?
Smoking is not the end of the world but it is a sign of greater fires below. Help your children so they don’t grow up dowsing their flames of sorrow and anger with alcohol or whatever else the piper is peddling.