More teens are kicking a deadly habit before it begins.
A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released last month shows teen smoking rates have dropped to new lows in the United States. The decline is doubly important. First, fewer teens are trying the latest method of smoking -- e-cigarettes -- than previous years. Second, most adult smokers picked up smoking as teenagers. The hope, of course, is that the smoking rate for adults in this country continues to decline steadily.
Consider this: Between 1975 and 2015, the smoking rate for people 25 and older dropped from 36.9 percent to 15.6 percent. Attribute that to vast research into the dangers of smoking (and secondhand smoke), as well as higher taxes on tobacco products, statewide indoor smoking bans (Ohio included), aggressive public awareness campaigns and improved cessation programs.
Still, in order to bring smoking rates down even further, especially in poorer communities where the habit is more prevalent, the focus must be on stopping young people from going from casual user to habitual chain smoker.
Social norms -- the notion that smoking is "cool" -- makes young people more vulnerable. They're also susceptible because the adolescent brain is more likely to develop a nicotine addiction.
Our community has seen major employers, from local hospitals to food processors, take aggressive steps to ban tobacco use among their workers. Now, a further curtailing of tobacco use has spread to two major universities. As The Canton Repository's Kelli Weir reported last week, Kent State University, including its eight regional campuses, and the University of Akron no longer permit smoking or other tobacco use on any of the properties they own, lease or operate.
The bans affect far more than faculty, staff and students. As Weir notes, smokers and tobacco users who attend events like the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival Balloon Classic and Fireworks on Kent State's Stark campus later this month also will be affected.
Kent and Akron join a growing list of smoke-free colleges and universities in Ohio. Among them is Malone University in Canton.
Such bans have shown to be effective at getting people to kick the habit. That, again, is critical for young people, who will have a much easier time quitting than an adult who has smoked for several years. And in Ohio, a state in which the smoking rate has exceeded the national average, it's especially important that a concerted effort is being made by major employers and educational institutions.
The role cigarettes and other tobacco products play in the development of cancer, heart disease, stroke and several other health issues is well documented. There's no debate that smoking can be deadly. Though Kent and Akron aren't breaking new ground, their boards of trustees deserve praise for enacting these common-sense policies. Other institutions should follow suit.
-- GateHouse Ohio Media