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Smoke-free Outdoor Spaces

Back to School!

Pencils? Check. Calculator? Check. Backpack? Check. Tobacco-free education…?

While many have checked supplies off the shopping list, it’s also important to talk to your kids about tobacco use. The 2014 Surgeon General’s Report on smoking and health found that 87 percent of all daily smokers began smoking before they turned 18 years old, with 98 percent starting before they were age 26. Young children and teens are particularly susceptible to tobacco and, without the proper education, may not realize that a small habit can quickly turn into a lifetime addiction.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 259,000 children alive today in Ohio will ultimately die early from smoking if more isn’t done to reduce the current smoking rates. The negative impacts of tobacco affect children the same way as adults. However, research shows that nicotine on a developing brain can cause permanent damage resulting in depression, decreased attentiveness and focus, and increased recklessness and impulsivity. Additionally, in Ohio, a greater proportion of youth are exposed to secondhand smoke than adults.

The dangers of nicotine addiction are growing in response to the growth in popularity among electronic tobacco products. In fact, recent national data suggest that e-cigarettes have now surpassed regular cigarettes as the preferred form of nicotine among kids. This increase is likely due to their novelty appeal, ease of availability, claims of safety, and youth-targeted marketing, such as fun and tasty flavors. The CDC considers youth use of tobacco in any form -- whether it be combustible, noncombustible, or electronic -- to be unsafe.

Children are influenced by many different factors when it comes to tobacco use.  The tobacco industry’s marketing campaigns, although not legally permitted to target children, are still visible to youth. Products are often displayed in convenience stores at a child’s eye level, looking eerily like candy. Ads stressing affordability, increased popularity and maturity are attractive to middle and high school students. Children can also be influenced by behavior from friends and family that present tobacco use as normal and/or a solution to daily life pressures. 

Prevention is key to protecting children against tobacco. Helpful steps for parents and guardians to prevent child tobacco use are:

  • Check on the ODH website to make sure the tobacco policy at your child’s school is up to date. If it is not, or your school in unaware of the ODH standards, contact the ODH Tobacco Program to learn more about how you can advocate for a stronger policy at your school.

  • Tell children emphatically and often about the dangers of tobacco and all other nicotine-containing products and strongly encourage them to live tobacco-free lives.

  • Encourage children to be involved in healthy activities at school, church, or in the community.

  • Set a good example by not using tobacco products.

Talk to your kids about the dangers of smoking and the benefits of leading a tobacco-free lifestyle. Visit for tips and resources.  

Visit the ODH Tobacco page for more information    


Last Updated: 9/6/2017