What makes teens start smoking?
SHENANDOAH - Reasons teens start smoking are different for males and females, according to Belinda DeBolt, community relations coordinator for the Southwest Iowa Counties Against Tobacco Use, a division of Page County Public Health in Shenandoah, which wo
DeBolt spoke before the Shenandoah Community School District Board of Directors last month regarding the school's tobacco policy, why teens start smoking, second-hand smoke and tobacco statistics.
Reasons for females to start smoking, she said, include: to appear fashionable, slim, beautiful and independent. Reasons for males include: to be adventurous, defiant, more confident, independent and to seem older.
DeBolt's mission is to talk to all 11 school boards in her jurisdiction. So far, she has talked to Shenandoah, Essex and Clarinda and Farragut.
"We have received the school tobacco policies of Page, Fremont and Taylor counties to see if they're up-to-date with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention," DeBolt said. "What I go by is what the parents would see, the students would see in the student handbooks ... if their policies are too loosely based, they would have difficulty enforcing that policy."
She said sometimes what is in the student handbook is not the same as what's in the policy manual, so there's a lot of room for misinterpretation. DeBolt says her job with the schools is to make their tobacco policy wording specific so it is easier to enforce.
She also encourages the schools to adopt the CDC's seven guidelines for tobacco-use prevention in schools.
"The supervisors have been great," she said. "It's interesting. They come up with new ideas to reach the students. The boards have been supportive. They want to know what they're missing."
Most school board policies are based on the Iowa Association of School Board's model, she said. Instances of loosely based policies include wording that is limited to prohibition of tobacco use on school grounds and student use. DeBolt said.
More specific wording would include, for example, prohibition of tobacco use in school buildings, land, any school-sponsored activity that is held off school grounds, or even in school vehicles, she said. More specific wording would also include staff, visitors, administration and faculty, as well as students.
CDC recommends implementation of cessation programs, not only for students, but for employees, staff and administration, she said. DeBolt is trained to administer three programs: "Freedom from Smoking" for adults; "Not on Tobacco" and "Alternative to Suspension" for students. All three are sponsored by the American Lung Association.
Students wishing to quit smoking may take the free "Freedom from Smoking" class, while those students who get caught using tobacco products on campus may take the ATS class, as an alternative to being suspended, to help them get through the day without smoking.
The Iowa State Attorney General's report on secondhand smoke states, "There is no 'safe' level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Even occasional exposure to the thousands of chemicals and numerous cancer-causing agents found in secondhand smoke can significantly raise the risk of lung cancer and heart disease."
DeBolt quoted from the report at the school board meeting, that "being in a smoky environment is the same as smoking several cigarettes."
Being in a nonsmoking section of a restaurant, she said to the board, is the same as smoking 1.5 cigarettes, and being in the home of a pack-a-day smoker for 24 hours is equivalent to smoking three cigarettes. A person will have smoked the equivalent of four cigarettes after being in a smoky bar for two hours.
The National Center For Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion issues this warning on its website: "There is no safe tobacco product. The use of any tobacco product can cause cancer and other adverse health effects. This includes all forms of tobacco including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and spit tobacco; mentholated, 'low-tar,' 'naturally grown,' or 'additive free.'"