Tobacco Information for Teens

Reviewed by:


Edited by Karen Bellenir
Second Edition (2010)
Omnigraphics Teen Health Reference series
454 Pages
RRP: US$62.00
ISBN: 978-0-7808-1153-9

EC-10-55-CE-0E-60-85-63-4E-71-2B-37-EA-AB-73-CFWhen first asked to review this book, I was excited at the idea of a new tool that I might be able to employ in my work with young people. My excitement was short-lived.

This very North American-focused reference doesn’t clearly state who the intended audience is and nothing about its appearance helps define this. However, many references are made throughout that imply it might be intended for teenagers themselves. Having worked with adolescents and young adults for some years now, I would have to question whether someone in this age group would ever pick up such an uninviting text, let alone wade through the dry, factual tome. It is far from user-friendly, if young people are indeed the intended audience. Moreover, it’s far from user-friendly for older adults, should this have been intended for teachers, parents or health promotion professionals.

The book opens with ‘How to Use’ instructions. I know of few young people who have the patience for written material that needs a ‘how to’ explanation. In the current online era, the vast majority would source up-to-date information from web-based sources that require little or no explanation of how to use them.

The 440 page book is divided into six parts: Facts About Tobacco and Nicotine; Nicotine Delivery Systems; Cancers Associated with Tobacco Use; Other Health Concerns Related to Tobacco Use; Tobacco Use Cessation; and If You Need More Help or Information. I can’t imagine anyone making it to section six and feeling inclined to investigate further.

The dry information and even the way in which it is presented lacks anything that would make it attractive to readers. Twelve pages alone are dedicated just to listing the chemicals and ingredients in cigarettes. The extent of its creative appearance is limited to grey shaded text boxes of ‘Quick Tips’, ‘It’s A Fact’ and ‘What’s It Means’ bullet points. The language is dry, mature and statistical, and there are no diagrams, cartoons or illustrations to encourage a young (or older) reader.

Content reflects a poor understanding of issues of relevance to young people. Suggested strategies to help the teenager quit include methods of distraction that include “do a crossword puzzle…play cards” and eating “carrot or celery sticks”. I’m sure the irrelevance of these to contemporary teenagers does not need further explanation. An example in the myth-busting section early in the book, where the authors challenge the myth that “smoking won’t affect my health until I’m much older”, uses two examples of questionably famous Americans who died at ages 38 and 46. Anyone who has teenage children will understand that to young people, 38 and 46 year-olds are old!

This book is the second edition of a series of texts known as the ‘Teen Health Series’. One would presume that the series follows the same format and style which gives cause to question how they’ve come to need second editions. Notably, the advisory board for this publication lists academics and librarians and one medical practitioner. Nowhere in any of the acknowledgements or bibliographic notes is there mention of input from any individual with experience in working with youth or development of youth-appropriate materials.

Needless to say, there has been no input or review by young people themselves, as one would expect of materials being developed for use by young people today. When I asked a couple of the young people with whom I work to take a cursory glance, it drew looks ranging from boredom to amusement. When questioned, it was clear that they thought I was joking that it might be something that would be of interest to them. One asked me why they would open a book when they have an iPad.

Needless to say, I would not recommend that professionals working with young people recommend this book to their clientele, if they wish to create or retain any rapport that they have thus far developed. It may have some limited use for holding by school libraries as a reference for school assignments, until its publication date becomes rapidly outdated by material available contemporaneously online.

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