As we begin a new year, it is also a new day for the health of our youth. The Tobacco 21 ordinance is now in effect, making it unlawful to sell, give away or deliver tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21 years (and alternative nicotine products including hookah and vaping substances in 2018.) I can’t ever recall anyone telling me that they were happy that they were a smoker. People in every decade of life will longingly describe how much they wished they had never started. The majority of people began when they were young enough to believe that the long term ill effects would never catch up to them. But of course they do, and the highly addictive substance applies a grip so firm that it rarely is released. Ninety-five percent of people who smoke say they began before they turned 21. And that’s why the ordinance is so important.
The 360 Youth Services Prevention Team is focused on substance abuse education and provided facts about the use of tobacco products to help inform this discussion. 360 leads the community-wide prevention collaborative The Power of Choice. On a recent survey, 94 percent of DuPage 12th graders indicated they had not used cigarettes in the past month, and 74 percent had not used any tobacco products. Research indicates that Tobacco 21 will reduce the number using even further, and therefore the number of people who years later are lamenting ever having started.
So where is tobacco now? It’s less likely to be in the hands of youth under 21.