When Jennifer Kovarik opens her black purse with the silver buckle, she fishes out items that she hopes teenagers never hide in their purses, pockets, lockers or gym bags: a line of smokeless tobacco products in the test-market stage.
That includes mint-flavored sticks, strips and orbs that can be popped like breath mints and carried in a container that looks like a slim-line cell phone — making it easier for minors to use the product illegally without getting busted.
“We expect this is part of the future of smokeless tobacco,” said Kovarik, project coordinator of Boulder County Public Health’s Tobacco Education and Prevention Partnership.
Nearly 90 percent of adult tobacco users begin using as teenagers and one in three of them will die of a disease related to tobacco use, Kovarik said.
But if teens hear from their peers about the dangers of becoming addicted to nicotine, perhaps fewer of them will pick up tobacco products, Kovarik said.
Don’t smoke any number or any kind of cigarette. Each cigarette you smoke damages your lungs, blood vessels and cells throughout your body. Even occasional smoking is harmful.
Write down why you want to quit. Really wanting to quit smoking is very important to how much success you will have in quitting.
Know that it will take effort to quit smoking. Nicotine is addictive. Half of the battle in quitting is knowing you need to quit.
More than half of all adult smokers have quit. There are millions of people alive today who have learned to face life without a cigarette.
Get help if you need it. Smokers can receive free resources and assistance to help them quit by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visiting smokefree.gov or SmokefreeWomen.gov.
For more from the CDC: Click on how_to_quit.
For more information: Visit TobaccoFreeLongmont.org and BoulderCountyTobacco.org.
On Wednesday, thousands of organizations nationwide will give teenagers — those who quit smoking or never started — the opportunity to share anti-tobacco sentiments as part of National Kick Butts Day, sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the United Health Foundation.
Morgan Reddick, 16, serves on the leadership team of Tobacco Free Longmont, a community anti-tobacco coalition.
The Mead High School sophomore got involved after noticing how tobacco use harmed the health of relatives.
“Just seeing what (tobacco use) has done to them makes me not want to do that to myself,” she said.
Without that up-close experience, other teens might try a tobacco product on a whim to fit in better with peers, she said.
“But it’s not something that’s temporary. It’s not like getting a piercing that’s fashionable, but that you can take out,” Reddick said.
Fellow TFL leadership team member Ryan Carson, 18, became an anti-tobacco activist because he, too, has seen the health toll tobacco use takes. A stroke, cancer or even just shortness of breath can prevent someone from living a full, active life.
“A lot of the health consequences are years and years off. It’s hard to think about that when you’re a teenager,” he said. “But these choices will catch up with you at some point. … Almost every adult who uses these products says it wasn’t worth it.”
Boulder County’s 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey reported that 16.9 percent of students smoked a cigarette at least once in the 30 days preceding the survey. Forty-seven percent of self-identified youth smokers reported they had attempted to quit in the previous year. Nine percent of students reported that they had smoked a whole cigarette before age 13.
Kovarik started smoking at 17.
Her fight as an adult to kick the habit explains her passion in fighting to keep teens tobacco-free.
“We believe Longmont is already working hard to protect youth from tobacco. The majority of Longmont’s youth are not using tobacco,” Kovarik said. “But we can do better.”