Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Teens' Lower Smoking Rates Mask Troubling Trend

Government surveys over the last few years have found a steady decline in the percentage of teens who say they smoke tobacco, but that decline hides a new trend that is cause for concern—while fewer teens are smoking cigarettes, many are replacing cigarettes with new flavored small cigars, whose popularity is soaring, according to a report in the December 13 Washington Post. These products are cheaper than cigarettes, come in colorful wrappers and assorted flavors, and particularly troubling, are perceived by teens as far less addictive than cigarettes. They do, however, have the same cancer-causing ingredients as cigarettes. A survey among Maryland teens recently found that use of these mini cigars has surpassed that of cigarettes. About 14 percent of high school students have taken up cigar smoking, according to data from the CDC.

This trend may be cause for alarm since nicotine dependence has been linked to suicide risk (see Psychiatric News here). To read about tools that have been designed to help psychiatrists integrate smoking-cessation treatment into their clinical practices, click here.

(image: Elena Rostunova: Shutterstock.com)