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Tobacco is a plant that contains nicotine which is a drug , it is available in many different forms , for example – cigarette , cigar , pipe , chewing gum , and snuff , e-cigarettes. Popularity of these products among the youth of Canada is prevalent. Tobacco is more prevalent among indigenous youth as compared to the non-indigenous youth. It is due to the family background of, culture and their history. “The average Canadian indigenous person initiates smoking at the age of 12, several years earlier than other Canadians which is 19”. This essay will focus on how popular tobacco is among youth and why is the access to tobacco so easy. It will try to answer the question, “tobacco misuse is putting youth on risk?”
“Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in Canada and globally”. Tobacco use among youth in foster care homes has increased. There is an overall decrease in tobacco use among general population but results suggest that prevalence of recent tobacco use is nearly triple the national rates while daily smoking is four times that of general young population. A recently reported study done in Canada found that there is high prevalence of smoking and substance abuse among indigenous youth within ages 14-19. 24.9 percent of respondents reported they were current smokers. 2.6 percent were previous smokers.
Indigenous people consider tobacco as sacred, tobacco is used in many rituals, ceremonies. It is offered to elders by indigenous people whenever they want any advice or blessings from them. Tobacco is popular among native people because it has healing properties, they use it as a medicine deal with many problems and diseases. However elders of indigenous communities consider the recreational use of tobacco as disrespect. Indigenous young children are exposed to tobacco smoke at their home and are at risk of tobacco related health issues. Tobacco smoke also causes childhood hearing loss and childhood invasive meningococcal disease, also Canadian indigenous populations experience much higher infant mortality rates, respiratory illness, cancer and behavioral problems. “Tobacco remains a major contributory risk factor to the poor health status as well as potential life lost seen among indigenous people”. Indigenous youth are at risk due to tobacco and other drug abuse. They face low self-esteem, lack of recognition in society. Also, many of these families have low income because of which needs of the youth are not fulfilled. They get themselves involved in ‘gangs’ that fulfill their needs. Children living in foster homes or group homes alone without having family support more often gets involved in gangs in order to get money or any other need. They get a sense of belonging in the gang and they do whatever the members demand of in order to get themselves fit in the group. They start doing drugs such as tobacco and then get addicted to them. In order to have a regular supply of drugs they even gets involved in criminal activities such as selling drugs. Moreover indigenous people are unemployed and have poor living standards, substance abuse is one of the main reasons why youth is unable to perform well in the academics and also not being able to do job well as employers do not prefer youth that are at any kind of risk.
There could be many different reasons or factors that young people indulge in using tobacco products. one reason is peer pressure, the company of young people plays an important role in what they do, if a person gets involved in a group who do a lot of drugs or may be sell them ,it is more likely that the individual will start using tobacco himself in order to fit in the group . Also, children gets influenced by their family especially in indigenous families. “The youth smoking survey found that 82 percent of smokers in grades 6 to 9 reported obtaining their cigarettes from friends, family members or other social sources. Moreover there are tobacco outlets available in school neighborhoods, which increases the use of tobacco among youth. The retail access to cigarettes is also a determinant of adolescent smoking. Youth also gets the message of trying tobacco by television, advertisements. Many movies, television shows normalize smoking as they show actors smoking all the time. Youth tries to follow their favorite actors or heroes and try to become cool. This makes them think that smoking is very normal as everybody does that. This make them young people who go through hardships in their life and are not able to cope up with their problems effectively finds tobacco and other drugs useful in reducing stress. “Young people with high depression scores are at greater risk for smoking. Low self-esteem, stress, boredom and low academic achievement all affect the initiation of tobacco use in indigenous children and youth”.
It is no secret that using tobacco is harmful. Tobacco is the leading cause of death especially among youth and children. “Tobacco is known to cause more preventable deaths than any other drug “. Tobacco use is associated with other abuses such as gambling and alcohol addiction. Tobacco is usually the first drug that a young person use, after that they get addicted to it at a very young age which then later lead to usage of other drugs such as cannabis, alcohol, marijuana and many more. Tobacco use also has many physical and mental health effects. Sleep problems are also associated with more frequent use of tobacco which itself causes many problems. “The results from five cohorts raise the possibility that a youth tobacco use may predict subsequent mental health problems linked with frequent tobacco use at age of 16 years with the emergence of depression, anxiety disorder, at 22 years of age”. Smoking is very popular among Canadian young girls. They are exposed to health issues. “Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of perinatal mortality, premature birth, low birth weight, congenital abnormalities such as gastrochichis and sudden infant death syndrome”. Many risk factors are also associated with quitting smoking. There are various withdrawal symptoms such as hyper anxiety, discomfort, agitation and a chance of relapse is there. Smoking is more common among poor or low income youth. Smokers who develop addiction cannot live without tobacco, so even when they don’t have enough money to buy cigarettes or other tobacco products, they get themselves involved into bad or criminal companies to get drugs from them and pay them in terms of doing criminal acts for them. Some youth also start stealing money or robbing. However, it is better to stop something from happening which so harmful afterwards. Preventing youth from using tobacco is essential. Youth should be provided with awareness and messaging about the harmful effects of tobacco on their life. Counselling is one of the best ways for treatment of young children smokers. Also family support contributes in encouraging youth to not try tobacco and also to quit tobacco. Especially among indigenous communities must discourage youngsters to not miscue tobacco. They are supposed to respect it as it is a sacred substance. “The health care providers should become familiar with local cessation supports available to targeting indigenous smokers such as telephone quit lines, community cessation groups, mentorship by elders or healing spiritual or cultural practices”.
In conclusion, this essay finds that tobacco is the leading cause of death especially among indigenous communities. The popularity of tobacco is putting indigenous youth at risk. Children get influenced by their families, peers, television and advertisements. There are many physical and mental health consequences that puts youth at risk.
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