February 05, 2008

Steroids vs Tobacco: Teens at risk.: With the recent increase of media coverage of steroids, have we ignored and forgotten the risks involved with teens and chewing tobacco? Here's my story and some disturbing statistics.

This is not a new story. This is probably not the best written story either. So, I apologize right off the top if you've heard all this before.

I was 13. My freshman year of high school was weeks away, and I had a decision to make: Football or Soccer. I was currently playing ice hockey for a private club, but at 13 I had no problem adding more on to my plate. Rosary High School had a very successful history of state championships in soccer, including teams that included family members of mine. They even had their names on banners in the gym. Very cool, I thought. I wanted that recognition too.

So, I tried out for soccer, and after 2 weeks of tryouts, I was cut. No big deal I thought, and the football field was right next door. Football it was.

Our coach was hard and mean. He was in great shape physically and knew the game well. I wanted to be like him. It didn't take long for me to see he was always chewing tobacco, I'll try it too, I said. And I did. I was 13.

Sometimes he would yell at me for chewing, but not usually. Most of the time he would "bum a dip" from the students, including me. I was ok with it, I liked chewing and it quickly escalated from a weekend thing, to everyday, to all day. I was 13.

My name was never put on a banner. I never won a championship. But I did aquire a nicotine addiction, rotting gums and terrible brushing habits. All at 13 years old.

I'm now 29, and yes, still chewing tobacco. I've battled with this addiction for more than half of my young life. It wasn't until I had a child of my own that this was all put in the proper perspective. I have tried to quit at least a dozen times and failed miserably at all of them. So, here I am again, almost 30 and attempting to quit again, I feel good about it this time. I think I can do it this time. I am stronger than chewing tobacco. (And I know I've said all that before.) Wish me luck. I'm gonna need it.

I know my story hasn't ended in surgery, facial deformity, cancer or death, and for that, I am lucky. But, in my humble research, there are many that are not.

These statistics come from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
-As many as 20% of high school boys and 2% of high school girls use smokeless tobacco. (5% of teen boys and 2.5% of teen girls have used some form of anabolic steroids)
-Of the 12 to 14 million American users, one third are under age 21, and more than half of those developed the habit before they were 13.
-Each year, about 30,000 Americans learn they have mouth and throat cancers, and nearly 8,000 Americans die of these diseases. Sadly, only about half of people with diagnosed mouth or throat cancer survive more than 5 years.

My point in writing this column was not to invoke a discussion of steroids vs tobacco. It is to remind us all that the dangers and availability of both are very prevolent in todays society. The use of steroids have had alot of media coverage recently, but lets not forget who we are as adults and how we influence young people, as young as 13.

posted by BoKnows to commentary at 12:28 AM - 0 comments

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