No matter how dangerous or distasteful smoking is portrayed in commercials and in society, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says 22.9 percent of our high school students are using a tobacco product.

This number comes from the CDC and Prevention’s National Youth Tobacco Survey. The survey, conducted in 2013, also reveals that 4.5 percent of high school students used e-cigarettes in the previous month. This is an increase from the 2.8 percent in 2012 and 1.5 percent in 2011.

So tobacco use is up among our youth. Not good news.

In a previous post this year, I listed a few simple things anyone could do that required little time or effort to dramatically improve your health. One of those was to avoid tobacco products. The news from the CDC is devastating. A whole new generation of smokers is being created right before our eyes. It is sad to learn that one in five high school students are using some form of tobacco; this includes cigarettes, e-cigarettes, dip and hookah. In fact, the use of vaping and e-cigarettes has doubled in the last year.

Just to be clear about the new e-cigarette trend: They are just as addicting as regular cigarettes. No, they don’t burn in the traditional sense, and there’s no ash or real smoke generated. But the effects and health risks are the same. This is also true of hookah; it poses the same health risks and issues as any other tobacco smoking method.

It has been clear for a long time that smoking and tobacco use are dangerous. Society has worked to make smoking unacceptable, and laws and ordinances have banned smoking in numerous public places around the country. But this trend just led to other more fashionable and acceptable ways to use tobacco products. And though they are touted as safer and better for your health than smoking, they are not.

Breaking bad habits is hard. So I’d like for us to look at it a little differently – cancer is hard. So are emphysema, COPD, and all the other illnesses associated with smoking. Those illnesses take a terrible toll on the person who uses tobacco. But those illnesses also affect their families and loved ones. If we think of it like this, we have to accept that when a young person chooses to use tobacco, it then becomes a family issue.

Just as smoking has become less acceptable, we have to teach our children the same thing about other tobacco delivery methods. If we don’t make it a family issue, our children are headed to become part of the “one in five” generation of smokers. Unacceptable!

Talk to your kids. Explain to them the health risks of smoking, vaping and using tobacco products of any kind. Quit if you smoke – for their sake as much as for yours. Quitting is tough. But the alternative is much tougher.

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