“It relaxes me,” says the 18-year-old Lakewood High senior, who did not wish to be identified. “My parents don’t know, but I have been smoking for about a year now. Not a lot, but just when I feel stressed.”
Between work, school, home and the typical young adult issues, it seems logical that teens would need a release. However, state reports show that smoking is not one of them. A new study shows that teenage smoking is down in North Carolina.
The study, released earlier this week, by researchers at the medical school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill show that programs designed to reduce teenage smoking in North Carolina are having an effect, based on the numbers and results that they have collected.
The study conducted by UNC researchers shows the percentage of middle-school students who smoke dropped from 5.8 percent in 2005 to 4.5 percent in 2007. The number of high school students who smoke fell from 20.3 percent to 19 percent.
The results come from what is being called the first comprehensive independent evaluation of the state Health and Wellness Trust Fund’s anti-smoking efforts.
Thanks to pro-active stances by groups like Sampson County Partners for Healthy Carolinians, and a state law, this past July, Sampson County school campuses have “no-tobacco” signs at every campus in the county. The law passed makes all North Carolina school campuses 100-percent tobacco-free schools. Clinton City Schools were already tobacco-free schools.
The teen speaks openly about how he got into smoking and the methods used to stop him from starting.
“I know that it’s bad for me,” he said. “It is obvious. There are not a lot of my friends who smoke, to be honest. I kind of grew up around it. So, yes, I was always aware of the dangers and health risks that come with it, so I had the choice not to, but the influence was from the older people, the adults, that I knew. I am not blaming them, because it is my choice, but I was never peer pressured into anything because, like I said, a lot of people I know just don’t do it. Before I started smoking I went hunting with my uncle and he offered me some dip (chewing tobacco) — I just didn’t like it. A while later, an aunt left a cigarette in the back seat of our car. I snuck it and it started from there.”
When asked if the new law and tobacco-free school prevents him from getting his smoking fix, the teenager says, “Yes”.
“It is pretty simple,” he said, “You are not going to jump in your car or take the risk of getting caught by a teacher or something, just for a quick smoke at school. It is not worth it to me. I am an A student. I want to go to college and I don’t want a mark on my record because I needed a cigarette. And I think that a lot of kids feel the same way ... it is just not worth it.”
So stopping would be an easy solution?
“Not really,” he admits. “While I don’t do it in or around school, there are plenty of opportunities for me to do it at night or at work or wherever. If you are asking if I see myself quitting ... I want to. I know that I need to, but it is not that easy once you have started. In fact, it is almost harder ... I don’t want to be smoking in college and I am hoping that I can control it and cut back until I don’t need it no more. When school starts back up, it will help me slow it down some because I don’t smoke as much, because I can’t.”
Currently there are close to 200 signs around the Sampson County School system.
Anthony Vann, executive director of auxiliary services for Sampson County Schools, said that his staff has put out as many as “7 to 10 signs on each school campus.”
To reach Doug Clark call (910) 592-8137 ext. 139 or send email to email@example.com.