Program keys on tobacco, pot

Beacon Light Behavioral Health is throwing away the phrase ‘back in my day,’ along with several other pre-conceived notions.

As Beacon Light’s prevention series continues at Sheffield High School today at 7 p.m., the focus will be on tobacco and marijuana use.

Presenters for the event are expected to include Chris Snyder, Supervisor of Prevention Services for Beacon Light, Police Chief Todd Mineweaser of the Youngsville Borough Police, and Justin Ludwig, Certified Recovery Specialist for Deerfield Centers for Addiction Treatment.

Tobacco use remains the largest preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States due to its widespread usage. It is estimated that more than 45 million people smoke resulting in an estimated 443,000 deaths each year caused by smoking or secondhand smoke exposure.

In Pennsylvania alone, close to 20,000 die each year from a smoking-related illness and the cost of treating people with smoking-related diseases runs close to $4.7 billion.

“When looking at the youth population, we are seeing an increase in the number of youth who smoke,” reported Snyder. “We know that tobacco is really the gateway drug when we’re looking at use by teens. Most teenagers that use hard drugs report starting with tobacco.”

Also on the rise is marijuana use among teenagers, according to the 2012 national ‘Monitoring the Future Survey,’ funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“A lot of people, especially kids, think marijuana is safe. They think it’s safer than tobacco and alcohol use, which is absolutely not true,” Snyder continued. “A lot of times we’ll hear parents say, ‘I smoked marijuana when I was a kid and I turned out fine.’ What they don’t realize is that it’s not the same marijuana now, it’s much stronger. THC levels are about 20 percent higher than 20-30 years ago.”

The prevention seminar is free and open to the public and will cover many other areas of tobacco and marijuana use and will be helpful in facilitating family discussions and teaching the dangers of these two drugs.