Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association: Protect youths from tobacco marketing

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May 31 is World No Tobacco Day, an annual awareness day sponsored by the World Health Organization since 1987 to draw worldwide attention to the tobacco epidemic and the preventable death and disease it causes. This year's theme focuses on global tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

Here’s how to get your teens involved with being above tobacco

1. Check out www.bettermeyv.com and share it with a teen.

2. Follow #BetterMeYV on Instagram, where teens can win a cool prizes for sharing photos that show how they can be a “Better Me.”

Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association

This monthly column about health issues publishes on Mondays in the Steamboat Today. Read more columns here.

Tobacco companies market their products with messages and offers that often appeal to youths. World No Tobacco Day is a good time to work toward further protecting youths from tobacco industry marketing so they can avoid the negative health consequences caused by tobacco use.

Tobacco companies spend more than $900,000 per hour in this country alone to market their products. Tobacco product advertising and promotions entice far too many young people to start using tobacco.

• Nearly 9 out of 10 smokers start smoking by age 18, and more than 80 percent of underage smokers choose brands from among the top three most heavily advertised.

• The more young people are exposed to cigarette advertising and promotional activities, the more likely they are to smoke.

• Extensive use of price-reducing promotions by tobacco companies has led to higher rates of tobacco use among young people than would have occurred in the absence of these promotions.

• Many tobacco products on the market appeal to youths. Some cigarette-sized cigars contain candy and fruit flavoring, such as strawberry and grape.

• Many of the newest smokeless tobacco products do not require users to spit, and others dissolve like mints; these products include snus — a spitless, dry snuff packaged in a small teabag-like sachet — and dissolvable strips and lozenges. However, these products can cause and sustain nicotine addiction. Most youths who use them also smoke cigarettes.

Ways to counter tobacco marketing in our community

Prevention is critical. If young people haven’t started using tobacco by age 26, they almost certainly never will start. The good news is that there are many things we can do to help keep teens and young adults tobacco-free, including:

• Creating a world where seeing people smoke or use other tobacco products is the exception, not the norm.

• Taking steps that make it harder for youths to access tobacco products, such as raising cigarette prices and enforcing laws that prohibit the sale of tobacco products to children.

• Further limiting tobacco marketing that is likely to be seen by young people.

• Limiting youths exposure to smoking in movies and other media.

• Educating young people and helping them make healthy choices — for example, through public education media campaigns.

Ways to counter tobacco marketing at home

You proactively can help youths make informed decisions should they ever be approached by others regarding tobacco use. Try the following tips.

Tell them:

• Key facts about tobacco.

• You don't want anyone — including them — to use tobacco in your house or car.

• You expect they never will use tobacco or will stop using it.

Help them:

• Find other means of coping with their problems.

• Say "no" to anyone who offers them tobacco.

• Quit if they're current users. Resources and assistance are available.

Make sure you:

• Know what they're doing and who their friends are. Adolescents and young adults are very susceptible to social influences. What their peers do — and especially what the leaders of social groups do — can exert a strong influence on what they do. Young people whose friends smoke are much more likely to smoke, as well.

• Network with other parents who can help you encourage children and teens to refuse tobacco.

• Encourage your children's schools to enforce tobacco-free policies for students, faculty, staff and visitors, both on campus and at all school-sponsored events off campus.

• Enforce movie age restrictions and discourage teens from playing video games or using other media that feature smoking.

• Never give tobacco to children or teens.

• Set a good example by not using tobacco yourself.

VNA offers options to help quit tobacco

• To be connected with a cessation counselor in Steamboat Springs or Craig, call 970-871-7634. Counseling helps tobacco users set quit goals in a judgment-free environment. Participants also may receive support for weight management, nutrition, heart health and stress control. There is no fee for this service. It is available in English and Spanish.

• The Colorado QuitLine, which offers free personalized cessation phone support for tobacco users. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

• SmokefreeTXT program provides free personalized text message support. Text the word QUIT to IQUIT (47848).

Information provided by www.cdc.gov/features/worldnotobaccoday.

Suzi Mariano is the director of communications for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association.

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