Help kids and teens quit tobacco

World No Tobacco Day on 31 May raises awareness about the hazards of smoking, including second hand smoke, and encourages smokers to quit.

This year’s theme Tobacco and heart disease focuses on the link between tobacco and cardiovascular diseases, which combined are the world’s leading causes of death. Tobacco smoking is a proven risk factor for cardiovascular disease, stroke and cancer and a leading cause of emphysema and other respiratory diseases. Tobacco smoking is also a contributor to impotence and infertility.

Tobacco smoking causes more than 5,400 deaths and 46,000 hospitalisations each year in NSW alone. Tobacco use is the single largest cause of cancer globally and the predominant cause of lung cancerThe number of young people who smoke is an important indicator for cancer rates in the future, since most adults who smoke started when they were teenagers.

The number of young people starting to smoke on a regular basis in NSW has declined over time, however:

  • 6.7% of 12-17 year olds reported being current weekly or daily smokers in 2014
  • 16.6% of young people aged 16-24 were current smokers in 2016
  • 15.0% of people aged 16 and over were current smokers in 2016.

A disturbing trend is the number of young people trying and using e-cigarettes, with about one in seven in 2014 reporting ever trying an e-cigarette. There is conflicting information about the dangers of e-cigarette use, but adolescent medicine experts say e-cigarettes establish a behavioural pattern that leads onto tobacco smoking and should be discouraged.

Second hand smoke significantly impacts children’s health and can lead to increased risk of middle ear infection, SIDS, asthma and other breathing problems.

Children of smokers are also four times more likely to become smokers themselves.

Quitting at any stage will benefit a smoker. Most people make several quit attempts before they are successful and each time a person attempts to quit smoking, their chances of successfully quitting for good increases.

There are a variety of options to help support those who want to quit. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) such as patches and gum can help deal with withdrawal. Talk to your doctor about other medications that are available to help you quit.

  • KidsQuit is an interactive and educational tool for professionals who need strategies and information when advising adolescents, parents and carers on smoking cessation.
  • Call the Quitline (free on 13 78 48 or 13 QUIT). A professionally trained counsellor at the Quitline can help provide advice and what to expect while you’re quitting.
  • Visit Quit Now (Australian Government)

World No Tobacco Day is an initiative of the World Health Organisation.

Erin Collimore, Health Promotion Officer and Sue Wicks, Department Head, Kids Health Child Health Promotion Unit at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead