Gen Zer to the editor: Smoking is harmful, why ours will be the one to end it

Images by alexassault and nikolay100 / Getty images, composite by St. George News

OPINION – Our generation — aka Generation Z — is faced with a shrinking middle class and high teen unemployment. We’re coming of age in a world entering an era of slow growth. So it makes sense that we worry about our financial futures more than the generation before us, and that we’re the first generation since the Depression era (almost 80 years ago) to have our earning potential and financial independence so top-of-mind. Pretty stressful, right?

Kick Butt Washington County Youth Coalition smoking -
This March 2016 file photo shows youth posing for some video taken during the Washington County Youth coalition’s Annual Kick Butts event. Little Valley Athletic Fields in St. George, Utah, Mar. 16, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News

All this financial anxiety has made us good penny pinchers. Nearly 60 percent of teens classify themselves as “savers” versus “spenders,” and more than two-thirds of us agree that constantly buying new stuff is overrated. We’re savvy when it comes to our finances, but there’s one thing impacting our wallets in a way that the vast majority of us don’t even realize: tobacco use. Why?

Research shows that smokers earn 20 percent less than nonsmokers. That translates into young adult smokers missing out on up to $10,000 a year. Think of all the things — and amazing experiences — these smokers miss out on because they’re lighting up. Oh, and that $10K doesn’t even include the cost of cigarettes, which averages $2,193 per year for a pack-a-day smoker. With that amount of money, you could buy 47 concert tickets, 44 new video games, 253 movie tickets or 548 venti lattes.

With so many uncontrollable factors impacting our financial success and sense of security, it’s important for us to fully understand — and eliminate — this one burden that we CAN control. It’s time to end smoking – and this smokers’ wage gap – for good.

Enter truth. As one of the nation’s longest running and most successful youth tobacco prevention campaigns, truth has been spreading the word about the harmful effects of tobacco use beyond the obvious health effects. Thanks to truth and their #FinishIT movement, we learned that smoking is hurting our dating with the music video “Left Swipe Dat” and endangering our furry BFFs (remember #CATmageddon?).

Now truth’s newest campaign, #SQUADLESS, brings to life exactly what young smokers miss out on when they choose to smoke. Truth is all about sharing these shocking facts and empowering my generation to be the one that can end tobacco use for good.

The Washington County Youth Coalition works tirelessly to promote campaigns like truth, and now our efforts are making a difference.

Today, teen cigarette use is down to a historic low of 7 percent. That’s incredible, especially considering that a whopping 23 percent of teens smoked back in 2000. But tobacco remains the number one cause of preventable death in this country, and almost half-a-million Americans will die from tobacco-related causes this year. One in 3 youth smokers will eventually die from tobacco-related diseases. What’s worse is that Big Tobacco is currently spending $9.6 billion every year — $26 million every day — to market its products and hook new smokers to replace the more than 1,300 smokers who die each day from tobacco-related death.

Washington County Youth Coalition hold local Great American Smoke Out on the Dixie Rock, St. George, Utah, Nov. 21, 2013 | Photo courtesy of Kaysha Price, Southwest Utah Public Health Department, St. George News
This 2013 file photo shows the Washington County Youth Coalition demonstrating along Red Hills Parkway during a Great American Smoke Out event they held at the Dixie Rock, St. George, Utah, Nov. 21, 2013 | Photo courtesy of Kaysha Price, Southwest Utah Public Health Department, St. George News

But the good news is, we can do it. We can be the generation that ends smoking for good.

Our generation — Gen Z, Centennials, call us what you will — has some serious grit. I’m talking guts, initiative, and tenacity. We’re tough, we’re resilient, we’re justice seekers. In a scary world where so much is uncertain, we can take a stand for what’s right. Together, we can overcome Big Tobacco. Together, we can build a successful, bright, tobacco-free future.

Get involved in the #FinsihIT movement by visiting, following @truthorange on Twitter and sharing the message of #SQUADLESS. Follow the Washington County Youth Coalition on Facebook or on Twitter @_wcyc_ and Instagram @_wcyc_.

WRITTEN BY Jarom Price, senior at Pine View High School and president of the Washington County Youth Coalition, and Allie Sullivan, senior at Desert Hills High School and vice president of the Washington County Youth Coalition; submitted by the Southwest Utah Public Health Department

Ed. note: Definitions for Generation Z (iGen, Centennials) vary as to its start date between those born in the early ’90s or 1996 or 2000, but largely agree that the generation encompasses those born present day. The Center for Generational Kinetics defines the birth years for Gen Z as 1996 to the present and states that those who define it as beginning at 2000 are often nonresearchers who don’t understand how 9/11 figures into the analysis.

“The last, most important defining moment for Millennials (the generation preceding Gen Z) was September 11, 2001,” the Center states on its website. “Those born from 1996 onward do not remember September 11, 2001. If you don’t remember 9/11, then you are NOT a Millennial, but a member of the generation after Millennials: iGen or Gen Z.”

Letters to the Editor are not the product or opinion of St. George News. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them.

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Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them. They do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting.

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  • wilbur September 10, 2016 at 11:57 am

    …nice SJW rant…might help the snowflake get into college somewhere..

    doubtful if smoking will ever cease…free will, and all that

  • Mike September 10, 2016 at 11:59 am

    Great article, Jerom. I’m glad to read the statics about he lowered teen cigarette use. Now if we could get them to stop vaping. Though seemingly less harmful, we won’t know for sure for years. It is still an addiction to nicotine.

  • Roy J September 10, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    Ahahaha! Oh brother, are you for real?!

  • homer498 September 10, 2016 at 2:29 pm

    I believe I’ve read your anti-tobacco campaign rhetoric before? Tobacco is a killer. Everybody knows that, but 17 year olds aren’t dropping dead from tobacco. They are dropping dead from heroin. The average smoker still lives to 65, but the average heroin user has a life expectancy of three years from the day they start injecting! I think by any measure, heroin is a much more serious problem we should be focusing on. As far as all that money saving business goes, you don’t have anything to substantiate why kids have more money; there could be a plethora of reasons for that. What you don’t mention is how much it would cost the average American if everyone suddenly quit using tobacco. In the State of Utah $1.70 of every gallon of gas is paid for with a tobacco tax. Source: I’m sure the righteous men managing our tax dollars would give us that $$$ back, but what if they didn’t want too? Anyone want to eradicate tobacco knowing that, that $1.70 per gallon of gas will now be coming out of your pockets from now on? And that’s just one example of bad repercussions from eliminating tobacco products.

  • Bob September 10, 2016 at 6:05 pm

    It’s often times easy to tell when an article is written by a very young person or child. Sometimes their indoctrination by their schools or whatever shows thru quite boldly , and often they will just parrot specific talking points. I’m glad i’m not a school teacher that has to grade children’s essays.

    The future will tell if this vaping stuff ends up being worse than cigs. seems inhaling chemicals can’t be a good long-term thing in any form.

    • .... September 10, 2016 at 9:26 pm

      Lmao now dumbob is an educational expert ..and you as a teacher that’s a joke. they don’t have courses in stupidity and ignorance so they wouldn’t hire you ! LOL. Gee whiz I didn’t know you were a vaping expert ha ha ha. .is that from personal experience dumbob ?

  • Common Sense September 10, 2016 at 7:30 pm

    In my opinion it is not the current generation that is contributing to the decline…Its the people who have had the guts to quit and live a more fulfilled life. My dad smoked 20 years and quit in the 90’s. When I was in high school I took up smoking….I smoked 10 years and made the choice to quit. (That was 10 years ago). I watched three of my grandparents smoke till the day they died, even with emphysema and lung cancer and chemo… Its multiple generations of people seeing the effects and making the change. Current youth will always try to do something that looks cool. You can’t tell me it has changed that much because they are just replacing cigarettes with vapor and the latest trendy drugs…

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