According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), an organization that monitors priority health-risk behaviors, there are fewer and fewer teens who are lighting up cigarettes. Today, about 22% of high school students smoke and around 8% of those who smoke do so at least 20 days of the month.
Although the rate of teen cigarette smoking has significantly decreased in the last 10-15 years, research shows that teens are using e-cigarettes and hookahs instead. The rising rates of using e-cigarettes or hookahs to smoke tobacco among teens might be compensating for the drop in cigarette smoking. The good news is the decrease in cigarette smoking; the bad news is the continued use of tobacco products.
A hookah is a type of pipe that burns charcoal which in turn heats up tobacco and produces smoke. The fumes are cooled by bubbling through a water-filled chamber before being inhaled. This leads to good news and bad news.
For the teen, inhaling the smoke after its been cooled is easier on the lungs. Plus, hookah smoking comes with flavors that are added to the tobacco making the tobacco smoke pleasant for others. However, the bad news here is that the cool smoke and the pleasant scents are misleading. They can trick the body in thinking that this kind of tobacco smoking is not harmful, but indeed it is.
The ease of this kind of smoking tobacco might make it a big sell for those teens with anxiety. Sadly, many teens today experience a form of anxiety that’s difficult to manage, making smoking a means to cope. When teens experience a type of debilitating anxiety – not the kind of stress or fear that comes before taking an exam or performing in the school play – but one that gets in the doing well in school, enjoying life, and feeling comfortable with oneself, they might seek a way to find comfort.
One clear way teens have been finding comfort is through hookah smoking. Between 2011 and 2012, hookah use rose from 4.1% to 5.4% among high school students, according to the CDC. And among middle school students, 1.3% of middle schoolers reported using hookahs to smoke tobacco.
However, e-cigarettes are also incredibly popular. In fact, of the 4.6 million young people who admitted to using tobacco, 2.4 million used e-cigarettes. Along these lines, research shows that teens are not sticking to one tobacco product. Instead, 2.2 million teens said they had used more than one tobacco product during the past month.
Researchers caution that nicotine is dangerous in any form. The teen brain is still developing and could be vulnerable to the ill effects of nicotine. Parents should do their best to keep their children away from nicotine products, at least until they are 18. This is the age that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved for the purchase of tobacco products.
Furthermore, nicotine is addictive and, for some teens, be a gateway to other more dangerous substances.