Let’s Prioritize

Hanah Cooper

Fun facts are interesting, right? Here are a few that are especially intriguing according to DoSomething.org:


  1. 90% of smokers began before the age of 19.
  2. Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.
  3. About 1.69 million pounds of cigarette butts end up as toxic trash each year, making them the most littered item on Earth.
  4. About 30% of teen smokers will continue smoking and die early from smoking-related diseases.
  5. Teen smokers are more likely to suffer from panic attacks, anxiety disorders, and depression.


And despite all of this, Wayne City High School is more concerned about the fact that someone is bringing a Coca-Cola into the school than they are about the kids poisoning themselves in the parking lot every day.


The prefrontal cortex is the part of your brain that distinguishes right from wrong, expresses personality, and manages social behavior. It’s the rational part of your brain. However, the prefrontal cortex doesn’t fully develop until around age 25. By smoking, you run the risk of damaging or bringing disease into this part of your brain. What does this mean for young smokers as they grow to be adults? In most cases, it is found that the biggest change is that of moral judgement. In a study, it was found that someone with damage to this part of their brain was more likely to sacrifice a person for their idea of the “greater good.” In some cases, it would completely change the morality of a person depending on the situation. If this is a known danger, why are we letting kids do this to themselves? Why is our school not doing more to stop it? How can we fix the situation?


Kimberly Cooper is a Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC) officer. She works in the field every day with teens and adults who have gone down a bad path because of drugs and feels very strongly about the tolerance of these kids smoking at their schools. “Studies consistently appear to show that teen smoking and future alcohol and drug use are closely correlated.” Cooper commented. “It could be that when a teen crosses the line to underage smoking, he or she is more susceptible to being persuaded to try other things that are prohibited or against the law. It could be that, once the brain is altered by nicotine addiction, and its natural reward systems have been damaged, the teen develops a need to find other, and perhaps stronger, outside sources to stimulate the pleasure sources in the brain. Social theories shouldn’t be ruled out either. Once a kid is “hanging out” where teen smoking is allowed, I believe they could run the risk of having more contact or access to alcohol or other drugs. I suspect all of these ideas could contribute to the correlation.”


From 2001 to 2013, the teen smokers percentage has dropped from 25.8% to 15.7%. That means that the problem is slowly diminishing, but that does not mean it’s something to forget about. Turning a blind eye to the truth of what is happening is only hurting these kids and future generations more. When younger children see their older peers doing these things- and getting away with it- it gives them the opportunity to think that it’s okay for them to do the same. That leaves the administration with a bit of a “tough” call. Do they let it keep happening now and for years to come, or do they put an end to what’s happening now in hopes for a better future?


“Kids will be kids and there’s no way to stop them from having access to cigarettes.” That’s a common argument for the people who look the other way when they see teen smokers. Maybe that’s true, you can’t shield every student from the dangers in the world. However, that does not mean that it should be tolerated on school property during school hours. So, Wayne City High School, I have a challenge for you. Stop worrying about whether or not my water is in a clear plastic bottle or if I have a snack in my bag throughout the day, and start worrying about the lives of your current and future students. Let us, as a school, stand out above the others who will continue to ignore their problems and work on bettering ourselves in the aspects that matter.