Physicians can help prevent youth smoking

Nearly one in five teens left high school as smokers, as well as reducing the number could be as simple as a chat with the doctor.

imagesKids and teens can hear about the dangers of smoking from parents, teachers and friends, but they may be less inclined to take up the deadly habit, if they hear a message, at least, another important person: his doctor.

That’s the conclusion of an influential panel of the publication of new guidelines today in two medical journals, Annals of Internal Medicineand pediatrics. In several studies, children are less likely to try smoking if they received any counseling or education from their doctors or other health professionals, says the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

“We do not recommend a specific intervention, as many things seem to help,” said committee member David Grossman, a pediatrician and researcher in the group Health Research Institute and the University of Washington, Seattle. “It is important that the message is coming from a doctor and it is an important voice … even for children.”

The report said, “Even a very minimal intervention,” such as a doctor’s office mailing a series of guidelines for the prevention of the parents and children can make a difference.

Stop children from ever smoking can have a huge impact on health; the panel says smoking kills about 443,000 people a year in the U.S., and 93% of smokers start smoking before the age of 18 years.

The American Academy of Pediatrics already urges doctors to talk to their parents, children, and adolescents about smoking.

But the task force academy and other experts also say that the wider strategies – engaging families, communities, the media and legislators – are needed to get rid of smoking initiation rate. Since 2011, about 20% of secondary schools and 4% of high school students were smokers, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While these numbers have been falling, the fact that nearly one out of five still leave high school as smokers is unacceptable, says Michael Steinberg, a therapist who runs a program for tobacco dependence in Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, New Brunswick, Jersey

“We must do everything possible to reduce the possibility of a young person to try their first cigarette, or to move from experimentation to become addicted,” he says.

In an opinion piece published alongside the report of the Task Force in the Annals, Steinberg support more than one of the proposed strategy: raising the legal age to buy cigarettes to 21. Offer to do this is under discussion in New York City, and a few states and counties have already raised the age from 18 to 19 years, despite the protests of smokers’ rights activists and some retailers. The small town of Needham, Mass., was the first to raise the age of 21, with a phased plan, which began in 2005, and some other cities in Massachusetts are following suit, says Jonathan Winickoff, Harvard Medical School pediatrician who spearheads the fight against smoking efforts Academy of Pediatrics.

Rising the age to 21 could reduce adolescent smoking rates dramatically, largely because younger teens often get cigarettes from older teens and young adults, Winickoff says. “And if you make it to 21 without smoking, your chances of ever becoming a smoker fall to 2%,” he says.

Some of the steepest drops in youth smoking have occurred since the beginning of the federal government requires states to strengthen the enforcement of existing Bans sales to 18, said the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The share of retail sales caught juveniles decreased from 40% in 1997 to 95% in 2011, the agency says. The numbers for 2012 will be released on Tuesday.

• Parents, teachers and others who want to talk to children and adolescents about smoking can get help from the CDC

• Teens who want to help can go to teen.smokefree.gov, government website with information about the text, and application tools, with or without tobacco Teens, a free app in the ITunes Apple, shops developed by researchers at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

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