Friday, September 28, 2007

With Cigarettes: Men Suck

My job is secure.

I was awestruck by a Center for Disease Control (CDC) report yesterday that demonstrated that, on average, one of five people over the age of 18 still smoke.

More importantly, the prevalence (at least in Illinois) is even higher for younger adults ages 18-35: one in four. And we're not talking about just casual smokers who later quit. No, we're talking about people who have already smoked over 100 cigarettes in their lifetime and say they currently smoke every day or some days. If true, these data are remarkably concerning and mean that we've got a lot to learn about how to implement public health policy on a grass roots level. It also speaks to how little the recent $200 billion tobacco settlement did for protecting our youth.

But then came the next remarkable statistic from this data that missed the headlines: men sucked more (on cigarettes, that is).

Without exception, the prevelence of men smoking exceeded that of women in every state. Why was this? Does testosterone combined with nictotine have a differential addictive effect? Or are we just more gullible to the influence of advertisers? Or is it because men don't seek health care as often as women and hence aren't reminded as often about the adverse effects of smoking? Who knows, maybe this is the reason guys have a consistently shorter longevity than gals.

Or is it because men are less educated than women? Fewer and fewer men are entering college now, relative to women. The educational system in America, with its unchecked growth in costs (especially in colleges) stays clear of this issue because it's not politically correct. And college admissions officers have admitted that acceptance standards are lower for men than women. But even from pre-college days, an increasing population of male children are failing to excel in grade school and high school relative to women. It's as though the old ways of teaching with bland coarse curriculae and drum-beat learning exercises has failed in comparison to the draws of action-packed video games (like the record-breaking Halo 3) that suck time from the active pursuit of learning and fail to engage our young men and boys. Many a child (mine included) have fettered away ridiculous amounts of time on these games to find themselves coming up short on tomorrow's exam.

This is not to blame the video game industry for the demise of male education in America. The problem is much more deep-seated than that. Attracting male educators to serve as role models to our education system is rarely discussed, but the need is keen, especially in early childhood education. Reworking our curriculae to stay in touch with the ever-rapid expansion of information and information delivery while "un-plugging" our families from the incessant influx of media influences might help too.

Certainly, I am not a specialist in education, but an educator and a guy who thinks about health. And there is a clear connection between the quality (and quantity) of education and the influence of public health initiatives - like smoking cessation - and we we'll never fix one problem without fixing them both.


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