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I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D., senior staff, U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).
Here is what's new this week in To Your Health, a consumer health oriented podcast from NLM, that helps you use MedlinePlus to follow up on weekly topics.
An interesting, recent debate about teen smoking trends suggests how health care professionals can interpret the same information differently and by doing so provide a different impression about progress in smoking cessation among young persons.
For example, the U.S. Centers for Disease and Controls (CDC) recently interpreted its national survey of teen smoking as suggesting e-cigarette use was sharply increasing among middle and high school students.
In a press release about the National Youth Tobacco Survey, the CDC emphasized e-cigarette use jumped from 4.5 to 23.4 percent among high school students, and 1.1 to 3.9 percent among middle school students in one year — between 2013-2014.
Last spring, in a news release about the agency's interpretation of the survey's findings, the CDC noted (and we quote): 'in 2014 e-cigarettes were the most commonly used tobacco product among middle... and high school students' (end of quote). The CDC's press release also emphasized the use of tobacco in any form among young Americans is unsafe, or is a significant life long health risk.
Last spring's CDC release continued that about 4.6 million middle and high school students are exposed to harmful tobacco product constituents, including nicotine. The report noted the latter exposure during adolescence can have (and we quote) 'lasting adverse consequences for brain development, causes addition, and might lead to sustained tobacco use. For this reason, comprehensive and sustained strategies are needed to prevent and reduce the use of all tobacco products among youths in the United States' (end of quote).
However, an assessment by Health News Review.org of the CDC's and an expert on health risk interpretation of the same data noted the CDC did not emphasize the findings also suggest overall teen smoking has declined steadily throughout the 21st century. (Health News Review.org is an independent organization run by journalists, physicians, and public health officials that critiques how the news media cover — and the public learns — about health.)
Health News Review.org added Dr. Peter Sandman's critique of the CDC's data suggested from 2000-2011 the number of high school students who smoke cigarettes declined by an average of 1.1 percent per year. Moreover, Dr. Sandman explained the CDC's recent survey additionally found from 2011-2014 the decline in high school student smoking accelerated to 2.2 percent per year.
In Health News Review.org's comments about Dr. Sandman's critique of the CDC findings, Health News Review asks whether the take home point for public discussion should have been the increase in teen e-cigarette use or the decline in teen smoking? Interestingly, all three sources (the CDC, Health News Review, and Dr. Sandman's critique) acknowledge both trends seem to be occurring simultaneously.
As Health News Review.org suggests, the underlying issue may be whether a trend and a countertrend should be emphasized simultaneously so the public gets a more comprehensive understanding of teen smoking trends and issues.
Either way, the discussion about how to communicate the CDC's youth tobacco findings suggests how differences in interpretation and emphases potentially shape how non-experts may perceive the urgency and strategies to counter teen smoking.
Meanwhile, a recommended, broader guide to the dangers of child and teen tobacco use (from the American Cancer Society) is available in the 'start here' section of MedlinePlus.gov's smoking and youth health topic page.
A helpful and timely guide to e-cigarettes from the Nemours Foundation is available within the 'teenagers' section of MedlinePlus.gov's smoking and youth health topic page.
MedlinePlus.gov's smoking and youth health topic page additionally provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the 'journal articles' section. Links to relevant clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available in the 'clinical trials' section. You can sign up to receive updates about smoking and youth as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.
To find MedlinePlus.gov's smoking and youth health topic page type 'teen smoking' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page, then, click on 'smoking and youth (National Library of Medicine).' MedlinePlus.gov also has health topic pages devoted to quitting smoking, smokeless tobacco, and smoking (that provides information for all ages).
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