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Puffin’ Your Life Away

“Smoking kills more people than alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined — and thousands more die from other tobacco-related causes — such as fires caused by smoking (more than 1,000 deaths/year nationwide) and smokeless tobacco use.”

This is the crux of “The Toll of Tobacco in Mississippi” which was just updated in June 2012. So many public areas have become smoke-free in our country, and even in our southern states where the tobacco is grown – some might start to think that the amount of smoking going on is decreasing.

But the statistics do not look so good. The article is mostly about high school kids, to get a handle on how many are currently smoking. The saddest statistic on that subject is that 3,900 kids become “new daily smokers” each year! But why?

Surely they must have heard the above quotation about how smoking shortens peoples’ lives. They may have even heard that 4,700 people die every year from smoking-related causes. Yet somehow it still holds an allure of some sort that makes them want to try. And until we can convince all kids everywhere that putting a tobacco-infested piece of paper into their mouths and lighting it with a cool lighter doesn’t make them look like adults, we’ll have to try to convince them with statistics.

17.9% of our high school kids are already smoking 7.8 million packs of cigarettes each year, and 18.5% of the males use smokeless or spit tobacco. An estimated 192,000 kids breathe in secondhand smoke at home from the 22.9% of adults that smoke. That’s close to the average for the whole country. The annual healthcare cost just for our state is estimated at $719 million.

Counterproductive to this is the $161.9 million spent by the tobacco companies to promote their products just in Mississippi. According to research, kids are twice as sensitive to tobacco advertising than the adults are, and more likely to succumb to peer pressure. It is reported that one-third of the underage smoking can be attributed to the advertising campaigns.

The short anti-smoking campaign slogan from the past still holds true: “Don’t start.”

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