School is back in session and our children are meeting new teachers, finding new classrooms and making new friends. This is an exciting part of the year with so many new things and endless possibilities.

With so many “new” things, it is also important for our children to understand that not every “new” thing is good. There are some “new” things that we must teach our children to watch out for and smoking surely tops the list.

Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 480,000 people each year and costing the health care system more than $170 billion each year.

Every day, 300 kids under the age of 18 will become addicted to nicotine. According to the 2018 Texas School Survey, the average age at which kids in East Texas begin smoking is 13 years old.

Something needed to be done ... and something has been done. The legal age to purchase any tobacco product has been raised from 18 to 21.

Research shows raising the minimum legal sale age to 21 has a positive effect in reducing the number of smokers. Most smokers transition to regular, daily tobacco use between the ages of 18 and 21.

In addition, tobacco companies have long viewed young adults ages 18 to 21 as their target market group. National data reports that nearly 95 percent of adult smokers began smoking before they turned 21. R.J. Reynolds’ own research states, “If a man has never smoked by age 18, the odds are 3-to1 he never will. By age 24, the odds are 20-to-1.”

The new minimum sale age of 21 begins Sept. 1 across all of Texas. It’s the law in 17 other states, which covers more than half of the U.S. population.

It’s important to talk to your children and educate them on the dangers of smoking, dipping snuff and e-cigarettes.

If you or someone you know is struggling with nicotine addiction or any other substance, there is somewhere to go for confidential and free assistance. The Alcohol & Drug Abuse Council is the place to start. For help, call toll free (844) 772-3483.

Kim Bartel works for the Alcohol & Drug Abuse Council’s Region 5 Prevention Resource Center.