Kids Smoking, Having Sex Less But Phone Abuse Still An Issue


A week before the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) announced that teen smokers are fewer in number than ever, a University of North Carolina survey reported that there is a growing feeling, nationwide, that the legal smoking age should be raised – perhaps to as high as 21.

The rule makers might want to ensure that e-cigarettes, or vapes, are including in a higher-age change, because while smoking of actual cigarettes is down, the use of vapes is increasing – even among young people who would supposedly never consider actual cigarette-smoking.

The CDC report said last week that tobacco use among high schoolers was down in 2015 to a record low of roughly one in ten. In 1991, roughly one in four in that age group smoked.

The CDC also said, in the same National Youth Risk and Behavior Study, that premarital sex is down among teens, as is soda consumption and the illegal use of prescription drugs.

Now, if they could be convinced that texting and or conversing on the phone while driving is anything but a good idea, we’d be making progress!

The National Youth Risk and Behavior Study included responses from more than 15,000 high school students. It is likely that this survey is conducted along the same lines as NSDUH, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. which is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an agency in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Several years ago, I was part of the survey team for NSDUH.

Surveyors visit randomly selected homes across the country and, when the occupants are willing to be part of the survey (and receive a nominal fee – presently $30 – for their time), select bits of information are entered by the surveyor into a small hand-held computer. Then, the participant is shown how s/he and other members of the family will enter answers to the confidential part of the survey into the computer.

Part of the reason for this elaborate process is to assure teens, for example, that regardless of what they say to the computer, their parents will no more about their sexual, smoking or other activities than they already did.

The NSDUH study – which is contracted out to RTI International, based in the North Carolina Research Triangle encompassing Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill – is a very expensive annual project. Potential survey team members are flown to a centrally-located city, put up for a week in a high-end hotel, and rigorously trained all day every day. Study procedures are intended to be followed religiously by surveyors – a fact that is stressed by the week’s instructors.

Still, after passing the really tough ‘final exam’ at the Cincinnati training hotel, I washed out in the field because I failed to stick to one basic rule: Because the territory I was assigned was a two-hour drive from my home, tended to stay in the field more hours per day than the program wanted me to. I thought that by avoiding multiple trips back at different times of the day to try to catch someone – anyone – at a selected home, I’d keep rotating around the ‘not home’ addresses and, as a result, racking up more hours than were permitted. It seemed to me that my approach beat the hell out of wasting four hours on the road – time for which I wasn’t being paid, anyway! – it made more sense to simply cool it somewhere (a restaurant, a gas station, anywhere) until there was a better chance someone I’d been unable to find before would be home.

The powers that be – in the form of the woman who was running my team – said she’d never ever encountered such a blatant breaching of the rules… and I was kicked off the team.

The lesson: If you find yourself working for an entity with a really cushy subsidy from the government, play by whatever rules they establish – or don’t, and quit.

RTI International has a number of cushy government projects tightly tied up. And the ultimate powers that be there are not about to let that applecart get upset.

Many organizations and companies benefit from the work produced through the NSDUH study. Chances are they would gain just as much if the budget on this project, and the rules for getting the work done in a cost-efficient way, were dramatically altered.

This is not just a ‘we’ve always done it this way’ issue: It’s a common sense one.

A lot of the issue with ‘out of control government spending’ boils down the same thing: Somebody, in a lot of departments, is not paying attention to how money is being spent – and, too often, squandered.

It’s nice to know that fewer teens are smoking, or having (probably unprotected) sex. It’s encouraging to know that an apparently growing number of are people so fed up with being forced to walk through clouds of inconsiderate smokers stench and poison that they are, at long last, anxious enough to hit smokers so hard in the wallet that they’ll get smart and quit.

Don’t tell me it can’t be done: I’ve done it twice! (Even after a number of years of abstinence, I found it way to easy to slip back to being a smoker. But the second ‘quit’ did for me. Full disclosure: I did relapse once, for a fraction of a day, when I was a situation that was both stressful and unacceptably dangerous.

I started smoking  when I was 11 or 12. I quit for the last time when I was, I think, in my fifties. Every once in a while, I still get the urge. It’s a nasty habit – made worse by the fact that the tobacco giants do all they can, including adding poisonous chemicals to cigarette tobacco, to get, and keep, you hooked.

If you smoke, consider two things: [1] the amount of money you’re wasting on a bad habit, and [2] the health benefits of quitting.

Do the research!



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