While drug abuse has been getting a lot of media hype, teenage cigarette smoking and drinking are not getting the same level of attention. This fact is confusing because evidence show that both cigarettes and alcohol also causes addiction as illegal drugs do.
Alcoholism is even classified as a disease by both the American Medical Association, and the DSM-IV. The nicotine in cigarettes are just as addictive. This much has been known as early as 1994 when the Food and Drug Administration had been informed by a special panel of the fact (Ember, 1994).
Moreover, alcohol and cigarettes pose a greater threat to life than illegal drugs. Alcohol is the worst and most prevalent killer among teenagers. According to Beth Herring, drunk driving claims 5,000 teen-age lives every year, leaving a lot more seriously injured or changed. This reality does not change the fact that more than 5 million high school students in the country binge drink. More statistics paint a grimmer picture: young people aged 16 to 24, which comprises only 14% of the total population, were in 28% of all alcohol-related driving accidents (Campbell, et. al., 1996). More young people are also involved in drunk driving death and injuries than any other age groups.
Cigarettes, on the other hand, have been found to be the leading cause of a host of life-threatening diseases including cancer, respiratory diseases, and osteoporosis.
What’s scarier with cigarettes and alcohol is that it is more accessible to teenagers than illegal drugs will ever be. It can be bought from the local 7-11, or any other convenience stores. It can be found at home. This accessibility lends it more prone to peer and social pressure. In fact, the disparity of alcohol use, cigarette smoking and drug use is very obvious when one studies statistics gathered in recent years. The New York Times reports that 13% of teenagers surveyed reported smoking at least once a month in 2008 (Brody, 2008) while 14% reported binge drinking, and 35% reported some alcohol consumption in the previous month in 2005 (Perez-Peña, 2007). In contrast, only 1.8% of those surveyed reported using cocaine, while 12% reported using marijuana and 2.5% reported using methamphetamines (Perez-Peña, 2007).
What’s more threatening is that studies had found that the earlier one starts smoking or drinking, the more likely one will be addicted as an adult (Perez-Peña, 2007).
The same potential of addiction, the ill effects, the easy access to and the more prevalent abuse of cigarettes and alcohol makes it a more urgent issue to address in mainstream media. Media has the power to persuade even politicians in the White House and other regulatory bodies to move against these everyday killers, while informing the rest of us of the real dangers of both. It should use its power to highlight the more dangerous stuff.
Brody, Jane. (2008). In Adolescents, Addiction to Tobacco Comes Easy. Retrieved on August 5, 2008, from the New York Times Online, Web site: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/12/health/12brod.html?ei=5088;en=fefc972750fbee63;ex=1360472400;adxnnl=1;partner=rssnyt;emc=rss;adxnnlx=1217941721-Jtr40YEv4ww+k56bTNw2KQ
Campbell, K. E., et al. Trends in Alcohol-Related Fatal Traffic Accidents: NIAAA Surveillance Report #38. Bethesda, Maryland: USPHS, 1996.
Ember, Lois (1994, August). Nicotine is addictive drug, says FDA panel. Chemical ; Engineering News, 72(32), 9. Retrieved August 5, 2008, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 42465).
Herring, Beth. PREVENT TEENAGE DRUNK DRIVING ACCIDENTS. Retrieved August 5, 2008, from Charity Guide, Web site: http://www.charityguide.org/volunteer/fewhours/drunk-driving.htm
Perez-Peña, Richard. (2007). New York Teenagers’ Substance Abuse Drops. Retrieved on August 5, 2008, from the New York Times Online, Web site: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/20/nyregion/20cnd-drugs.html?ex=1332043200;en=2aa8593716515bd1;ei=5088;partner=rssnyt;emc=rss