One of the largest issues today is adolescent smoking. According to a heath based website, nearly 90% of adult smokers start while they are still teens and they never intend to get hooked. They may start by bumming a cigarette or two from a friend at a party, and then go on to buying an occasional pack. Soon they realize that they can't go without that pack.

They " ve gotten used to reaching for a cigarette first thing in the morning, after meals, or during any stressful time. They become addicted, both physically and psychologically. According to the American Lung Association, each day 6, 000 children under the age of 18 smoke their first cigarette. Almost 2, 000 of them will become regular smokers - that's 757, 000 new smokers annually! Many teens start smoking because they have friends or older siblings who smoke. Some teens look at smoking as a way to get through difficult social situations.

Smoking gives them something to do with their hands and makes them feel older or more sophisticated. Some teens smoke because they feel they look too young and that smoking may make them appear more like an adult. Some teens - especially young women - think smoking is a way to keep their weight under control. She might think that if she has a cigarette in her hand, she's a lot less likely to eat. Others believe that a cigarette helps them relax when they " re stressed out because of schoolwork, dating problems, or family pressures. Teens often start smoking because one or both parents smoke; they get the message that smoking is an acceptable habit.

Others smoke because it isn't acceptable in their families. These teens may think that smoking shows that they are old enough to make their own decisions. To make matters worse, the tobacco companies are making millions from teen smokers. Tobacco companies use advertising to manipulate both teens and adults.

They present images that are hard to shake, even when you know the truth. Have you ever seen a cigarette ad where people are wrinkled, middle-aged or coughing and in the hospital dying of lung cancer? Of course not! In most ads, smokers are shown the way that teens would like to be: attractive and hip, sophisticated and elegant, or rebellious. A 2002 study performed by the Research Triangle Institute states that the tobacco companies make 1. 8 billion dollars annually from underage sales.

It is interesting that they are making such large profits when it is illegal for a person under the age of 18 to purchase cigarettes. A recent survey by the The American Lung Association indicated that among students under 18 years old who were current smokers, 69. 4% reported never being asked for proof of age when buying cigarettes in a store, and 62. 4% were not refused purchase because of their age. The tobacco industry kills more people in North America from Monday to Thursday of each week than the terrorists murdered in total on September 11, 2001. That sounds unrealistic, doesn't it? Well, smoking is an epidemic that affects us all, whether you are a smoker or you aren't.

In order to stop this epidemic, we need to focus on our youth.