Teenage Smoking Health Risk
Beckham County, Okla., faces a significant health risk from the phenomenon of teenage smoking. The most recent data available show that Oklahoma is among the most at-risk states in the country for smoking, with 46% of Oklahoma’s high school students identified as smokers in 1999, compared to 36% nationally (21% in Florida) (OSBH, 2001). Some 25.2% of Oklahoma adults smoke, compared to 22% nationally.
Smoking and other uses of nicotine have been positively associated with cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, emphysema, premature births and low birthweight, and bladder, throat, and lung cancer, among other serious health problems. Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to nicotine addiction. Oklahoma’s State Department of Health reports that more than 105,000 Oklahoma children are tobacco users, with the equivalent of two classrooms getting “hooked” every day. Indeed, since 1998, the year of the multistate tobacco settlement, an estimated 40,590 persons under age 18 have become daily smokers (OSDH, 2001).
The hazards of smoking are a commonplace of health-care education, but the habit persists. And Oklahoma remains far more a part of the problem than a part of the solution. Nicotine addiction that begins in childhood and adolescence sets up the affected population for early onset of opportunistic health problems and a concomitant drain on public- and private-sector health-care resources. Meanwhile, tobacco-related deaths come in at more than 6,000 per year in Oklahoma, and tobacco use loses $1 billion per year in medical care and lost productivity–about $300 per Oklahoman annually (OSDH, 2001).
There are also human costs. For example, in recent years, about one-third of women who have given birth in Oklahoma smoked prior to pregnancy; of these women, two-thirds smoked during the last three months of their pregnancy (OSDH, 2001b). Nonsmoking women are three times more likely to deliver normal-birthweight babies, but in Beckha…