Hurricanes lead to teen smoking

Filed under: Teens, Health & Safety: Babies, Day Care & Education

Those who live in southeast Texas are all too familiar with the damage a hurricane can do to their homes and loved ones. But what isn't so obvious is the psychological damage that remains long after the wind and rain has died down.

Researchers at University of Texas Health Science Center say that teenagers who live in this area of Texas are more likely to smoke cigarettes if they, or a member of their family, were affected by Hurricanes Rita or Katrina.

They surveyed more than 5,100 middle school and high school students in Jefferson County six to nine months after hurricanes Katrina and Rita made landfall in 2005. What they found was that almost 38 percent of those who had a family member hurt or killed in the hurricanes were now smoking. Of the kids who did not have family members affected by the hurricanes, only 13 percent admitted to smoking. Students whose homes were damaged or destroyed, or who had family or friends whose homes were damaged or destroyed, also had higher rates of smoking.

According to Alfred L. McAlister, the author of the study, these storms "had an emotional impact on the youth" that has resulted in many of them using tobacco as a crutch. Tobacco being what it is, these teens become addicted.

"Raised stress levels lead to more smoking," he said. "It was not shocking to find that relationship after the hurricanes."

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.