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Work together to stop kids from smoking

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Lung cancer and smoking are terrible twins.

But we often forget that smoking has been linked to other terrible outcomes, like increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

A new study published in Stroke, Journal of the American Heart Association, found confirmatory evidence that women who smoked increased their risk of stroke 5.7 times when they had cigarette-smoking spouses, compared to women smokers with non-smoking partners.

No one is suggesting that divorce is the answer for these smokers, rather the opposite: that they support each other in giving up tobacco. Secondhand smoke is not only a problem for nonsmokers, but an even bigger risk factor for those already lighting up.

And stroke is the third-leading cause of death in the United States.

Most of us know that cigarette smoking is the most important preventable cause of premature death in the United States, according to the American Heart Association.

The AHA Web site -- -contains other "smack you in the face" statements clearly spelling out that smokers' risk of heart attack is more than twice that of nonsmokers, and that cigarette smoking is the biggest risk factor for sudden cardiac death, with smokers having two to four times the risk of nonsmokers.

So why can I walk outside and still see co-workers puffing away at designated smoking areas? Or run into teenagers still doing the swagger thing with a butt hanging out of their mouths?

Addiction is probably the answer to the first question. And it likely contributes to the second, although I continue to be stunned that smoking is still considered socially acceptable among the under-20 crowd who have been exposed to tons of information on its negative impact on the body.

The longer you smoke, the harder it is to give it up. But it is inconceivable to me that anyone nowadays would want to start.

I'm not the only one concerned, of course.

Click on www.tobaccofreekids.orgfor information on the National Center for Tobacco-Free Kids, also known as the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which is an independent, nonpartisan, organization that works to prevent tobacco use by young people.

Right at the top of its page, you see a startling figure: 454,844 kids have become regular smokers in 2005.

Where do they get their cigarettes?

More than half buy the cigarettes they smoke, either directly from retailers or vending machines, from other kids, or by giving money to others to buy for them, the site says.

That's not what I wanted to see, particularly with efforts being made in Florida and elsewhere to make cigarettes less accessible to children and to require retailers to keep them behind the counter.

But hiding them isn't the whole answer.

Getting kids to refuse to smoke, that's the ticket.

And that takes more than putting cigarettes up high on a shelf or raising the price of a pack, although there's no question that both those actions can help.

Carolyn Susman writes for the Palm Beach Post. E-mail: Editor Notes:

c.2005 Cox News Service

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