Pima County’s Health Department launched a new hotline aimed at helping young Arizonans quit smoking cigarettes.
About 90 percent of smokers are addicted by the time they are 19, and most of them tried a cigarette for the first time when they were 11 years old, according to county officials.
In Arizona more than 17 percent of teens use tobacco, said Gregory Rivera, youth prevention program coordinator with Pima County.
“Six thousand kids under 18 become daily smokers in the state," he said. "That’s a pretty heavy number when you think about how these kids are not legally able to smoke."
The public service campaign focuses on teaching young smokers how easily they can become addicted to smoking.
“Youth saying ‘I’m only doing it once a day’ or ‘I only smoke at parties’, they’re already starting that addiction and it’s only going to be worse...” Rivera said. “Youth will see themselves as non-smokers because (they don't do it) as often or because they’re at that age (when they think), ‘what is this going to do to me right now I’m young,’ and there’s that misconception that it’s easy to drop tobacco use once you started.”
Many times, when youth call the hotline, they will find a young adult on the other end of the line, Rivera said.
That coach will talk with the young smoker but will not provide medications or quit aids, such as nicotine patches, to anyone under the age of 18.