Are you interested in taking some small steps for a healthier lifestyle? Check out our Hi-5 For Health series to connect with other youth, get tips from experts, join the discussion, and participate in challenges!
First up, let’s talk about alcohol and tobacco.
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Real-life, real talk
"Hey guys, Rasheem here! I’m 22 and I live in Kingston Jamaica.
Society makes us think that drinking and smoking can make our life better, but does it really? As young people, we have the power to be aware and make better choices for ourselves.
I know how easy it can be for teens to access and abuse alcohol and tobacco, as it was for me.
So I decided to head to the streets of Jamaica and talk to other young people about the pressures and influences they see around them today.
Know the Facts
1. About 70% of young people around the world don’t use alcohol.
Young people around the world recognize that alcohol is not good for our health. In a recent global U-Report poll: 48% of you felt that drinking alcohol is dangerous and damages your health, 34% of you felt that even moderate drinking is dangerous, and 75% of you felt that tobacco is bad for your health. Drinking is not the only solution to make you feel better, help you socialize, or make you fit in. Your generation has the power to change the way we all think about and use alcohol and you are already leading the way!
2. There are a lot of factors that can influence our decision to use alcohol or tobacco.
This includes images and messages of influencers and celebrities, adults that drink and smoke around us, our friends and classmates, or even advertisements that make alcohol and tobacco look cool.
Make sure you know the facts and come up with a few ways to protect yourself from these influences so that YOU can make the choices that you really want.
3. Drinking alcohol interferes with your ability to do basic things like see, hear, talk, walk, control your emotions, and make decisions.
Zoom in on the image to learn how alcohol affects your brain functions:
4. The human brain doesn’t finish developing until your mid-20s.
Underage drinking interferes with brain development and can even lead to addiction or alcohol use issues for the rest of our lives. This is why drinking is more harmful to adolescents than adults.
5. We are more likely to take risks when we are around our friends.
You might want to find a buddy who has similar views about alcohol use - having a support system can make a big difference. If you feel like you are being pressured to drink, try one of these 5 ways to say “no”:
6. Media is powerful
We are all bombarded with images of alcohol and tobacco - through advertisements, social media posts, movies, and other digital content that we stream. These images give us the impression that drinking and smoking are normal or even cool... but are they?
7. Have you ever wondered what is actually in a cigarette?
8. Inhaling these chemicals can damage every part of your body.
When we first smoke we will probably cough, that’s actually our body’s way of telling us that what we are inhaling is not good for us. Tobacco also weakens our immune system, which makes it harder for us to fight off illnesses like COVID-19.
It also affects our brain by creating dependency, making it hard for us to go even a few hours without nicotine and causing us to feel the symptoms of withdrawal including difficulty focusing and jitteriness. Tobacco also increases our risk of cancer and heart disease.
Did you know? It takes nicotine only 10-20 seconds to reach our brain from the first puff. Nicotine is highly addictive and wires our brain to crave it throughout our lifetime. 9 out of 10 adult smokers started before they turned 18.
9. The tobacco industry knows young people have caught on to how harmful smoking is.
That's why they are promoting their products in different forms and suggesting that there are “healthier alternatives,” which is not entirely true...
Different colors and flavors like cotton candy, banana split, watermelon, and many more are being used to entice younger consumers, but it is important to remember that these are still bad for us!
Regardless of if its form, tobacco use has a harmful effect on us all.
Think about it
Make a difference
Now it's your turn. Here are some options to share your views on alcohol and tobacco with us.
Use your investigative skills to capture photos of anything around you that tries to make alcohol and tobacco look appealing. This can help you become more aware of the influences around you. Show us what you see by tagging @voicesofyouth on social media.
Share your thoughts about alcohol and tobacco by submitting a blog, poem, illustration of other piece of content through Voices of Youth.
Pass it on!
Share something you’ve learned here with one other person and spark a conversation!
If you are struggling with alcohol, tobacco, or any kind of substance use, we encourage you to seek help from a trusted adult or search online for available support in your country. Asking for help is a sign of strength ‑ it shows self‑awareness and courage to overcome something difficult.
The content is this learning module was developed by UNICEF in collaboration with the UNICEF-AstraZeneca Young Health Programme Young Leaders. Learn more about their vision for a healthier future here. Art by Vania Dhianisya and Njung'e Wanjiru.
UNICEF does not endorse any company, product or service.