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Ugly truth sends teens smoke signal

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/7903854/Ugly-truth-sends-teens-smoke-signal

Ugly truth sends teens smoke signal

MARIKA HILL

Last updated 05:00 04/11/2012

Health

Gruesome images of rotting teeth and diseased lungs are having the intended impact – smoking is no longer cool among teenagers.

In 1999, 30 per cent of year 10 students had never lit a cigarette. Today, 70 per cent have never smoked, according to the Ministry of Health’s latest annual report.

While there continues to be a large number of teens who say they have experimented with cigarettes, those who claim to be regular smokers (daily, weekly or monthly) have fallen from 29 per cent to just 8 per cent.

The Government has hiked tobacco taxes, invested in marketing campaigns, and removed tobacco displays in a bid to stamp out smoking completely by 2025.

An anti-smoking conference in Wellington this week will push for even more regulation, including a ban on menthol cigarettes.

But according to some Auckland teenagers the “gross” effects of smoking on the body is the biggest deterrent.

Noa Sullivan, 15, said she has never smoked and never plans to.

“It’s horrible, it’s the most disgusting thing, even just the smell of it,” she said. “It looks bad, especially on girls my age.”

Students were shown images of lungs poisoned by years of tobacco use, gangrenous toes and rotting teeth in their Auckland Girls’ Grammar School health class. The students agreed the graphic images worked better than advertising campaigns.

“I don’t think the [advertisements] change people’s opinions. Just telling us not to smoke won’t work,” Sullivan said.

Cassandra Taufa, 17, said she would never touch a cigarette.

“I think it’s easier to say no than it used to be.”

Her classmate, Tufui Tapaevalu, 17, said the people who smoked did it for the same reasons as the generation before them.

“Some people think it’s cool and just do it because their friends do,” she said

In 1999, two out of three students tried a cigarette by their third year in secondary school.

The trend has now reversed with two out of three students never having lit up by year 10, according to the annual Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) survey.

ASH director Ben Youdan said international research showed students were more worried about the superficial effects of smoking than the health problems.

The gruesome images of yellowing fingers and rotting teeth were therefore more likely to get the message across.

Despite the promising trend, every year about 2000 children aged under 10 try a cigarette for the first time.

“For those who had their first puff under the age of seven, they are three times more likely to be menthol cigarettes,” said Youdan, adding that the Government was considering a move to ban menthol cigarettes.

He will speak about how menthol cigarettes mask some of the bad tastes of tobacco, making them more attractive to young people, during the Tobacco-free Aotearoa Conference this week.

ASH is currently collating the survey results of teenage smoking rates for 2012.

The most recent figures matched Ministry of Health figures, with the proportion of 14- and 15-year-olds not smoking rising from 64 per cent in 2010 to 70 per cent in 2011.

ASH expects a similar downward trend this year as cigarettes are priced out of the reach of more teenagers.

– © Fairfax NZ News

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