Youth Unemployment and Tobacco Use

(A Trilogy)

A few weeks ago, I was alarmed at discovering the truth about the ten million jobless youth in the U.S. (a number greater than the population of New York city). Regardless of nationality, ethnicity or religion, being jobless is bound to have grave consequences for every youth’s well-being, and/or the life of that person’s family.

Most young people graduating from high school or college have had a smoke, whether by choice, peer-pressure or boredom. Many were busy dating, club hopping, studying for exams, or juggling a menial part-time job and school, so a cig here and there may have been the norm.

Yet, shortly after attaining the celebratory feeling of achievement that accompanied that young person’s awarded degree, comes the terrible reality check. “Where are the jobs, man? Why haven’t they called me for an interview yet?”  The hours of staying at home on your parents’ couch, at a friend’s place, or in their own basements, feels endless and quite frankly nauseating. The TV and video games are mind- numbing. These bright minds still filled with mathematical theories and chemistry formulas from just a few months ago are slowly being drawn into a spiral of nothingness where everyone is feeling the same lack of purpose and sense of wasted time. The lucky few  with actual jobs are now filling the void their friends leave behind, with cans of beer, cigarettes, or weed. Some parents (that is the ones who still feel a social and moral responsibility toward their adult children), are helplessly watching their offspring sink into depression. Other parents are buying the latest editions of Resume Writing books, scrambling to devise eye-catching cover letters, even though there their child often has no real job experiences to be listed.

Well, it is time for us all to wake up. This economic recession and its attendant high youth unemployment are not just costing the US $20 billion in lost wages (www.americanprogress.org). Millions of jobless young people are equally damaging and eroding their health by smoking and drinking as a way to cope with anxiety, depression, and yes, boredom. The CDC  has listed the well-known factors associated with tobacco such as peer pressure, low economic status, lack of parental support, and even the biological link factor. The website also informs that “Cognitive and Affective Processes such as depression, anxiety and stress”, as well as “expectations of positive outcomes from smoking” are “factors associated with tobacco use“. I am stunned and outraged  that nowhere is our terrible economy listed as a factor of tobacco use, particularly among young people.

Hello! Does anyone care that this economy is killing an entire generation of young people, quite literally and metaphorically, who have no nothing positive to turn to. As I continue to reflect on issues concerning today’s youth, I dare to say: hopelessness, nicotine/ drug addiction, and suicide whether combined or taken separately constitute the real smoking gun of the consequences of youth unemployment in 2013.

 

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