July is always a month full of celebration, we are celebrating our country on July 4th or newly graduated young people. July is also a month that Reality Check members from across New York State come together at Youth Summit and celebrate accomplishments in their local communities. These accomplishments could include getting a municipality’s parks to become tobacco free, a housing complex to pass a smoke free policy for all of their apartments, or a county to raise the age to purchase tobacco from eighteen to twenty-one. All of these types of accomplishments focus on one thing tobacco.
Tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable death in the world. Over 28,000 New Yorkers die each year from their own smoking, This 28,000 does not include the people who are nonsmokers and their health is affected by being exposed to secondhand smoke. There are twelve types of cancer related to tobacco use, but what a lot of people do not realize is that smoking can also cause heart disease, stroke, and diabetes among other things.
Tobacco use in teens can be more detrimental by exposing youth to the very addictive drug known as nicotine. Nicotine is usually the first addictive drug that youth experience, which activates receptors in the brain releasing dopamine to give them the feeling of pleasure and reward, which can lead to trying other drugs that create this same feeling. Nicotine is also known to change how the adolescent brain develops. These changes increase: risk-taking, impulsivity, and vulnerability to initiation and subsequent addiction to drugs. Nicotine exposure to an adolescent brain also can cause incomplete development of the pre-frontal cortex, which controls decision making, impulse control and executive function.
Tobacco use also hits the pocket book. Annual healthcare cost in New York State caused by smoking is over $10,000,000,000. Medicaid cost caused by smoking in New York State is over $6,000,000,000. This means that residents of New York State pay $1,462.00 per household in state and federal taxes due to smoking-caused government expenditures. Finally, productivity loss in New York State caused by smoking is over $7,000,000,000.
As you can see from what you have read previously, tobacco use affects everyone in some way. For these previous issues, the work that Reality Check youth does across the state is a reason to celebrate. These youth are taking an active role in their communities and participating in making it a healthier place to live for all community members. For more information on Reality Check visit www.realitycheckofny.com or follow your local Reality Check on Facebook and Instagram at RealityCheckJon.