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Health & Parenting

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More Teens Are Snuffing Out the Smoking Habit


The American Lung Association (ALA) says they have found that of adolescents who smoke regularly, most of them report wanting to quit but are unable to do so. After three years of development, the ALA's teen smoking cessation program Not On Tobacco (N-O-T) is being promoted nationwide. Designed for high schools and community-based organizations, N-O-T is the first program that has separate boys' and girls' groups so teens can relax and talk about issues that are most important to them. It is a voluntary, 10-session program that uses a total health approach to help addicted teen-age smokers who want to quit, or just cut back.

After it's first six months of existence, a preliminary evaluation shows that more than 22% of teens participating in N-O-T stopped smoking and 64.5% greatly reduced the number of cigarettes they smoke. "The teens who participate in N-O-T benefit because it incorporates both a life skills management approach that addresses issues such as stress and decision-making, and also teaches health behaviors such as nutrition and exercise for teens that are making important changes in their lives," says Ernest P. Franck, president of the American Lung Association.

The CDC notes that many factors interact to encourage tobacco use among youth, including tobacco advertising and promotion, tobacco use by peers and family members, and easy access to tobacco products. The CDC has developed it's own tools to help schools and family members keep children from starting to smoke -- and help them quit if they're already hooked.

For example, the CDC offers parents and other adults a one-page tip sheet that suggests ways to inform children about tobacco use without turning them off. It is designed for PTAs, scouts, neighborhoods, and other parent groups.

The CDC also recommends schools implement tobacco-free policies involving the school's faculty, staff, and students. The CDC notes that while almost 63% of schools had smoke-free building policies in 1994, significantly fewer -- 36.5% -- reported having policies that included the entire school environment.

The CDC estimates that effective educational programs for preventing tobacco use could postpone or prevent smoking onset in 20% to 40% of U.S. adolescents. They note that programs targeting kids during the critical years for taking up the habit (ages 11 to 15 years) are more likely to be effective, as are programs that address a broad range of educational needs. Unfortunately, fewer than 5% of schools nationwide are implementing the major components of school guidelines recommended by the CDC.

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