Smoking, along with other forms of tobacco use, is the leading preventable cause of both disease and death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control, it’s estimated that more than 80 percent of smokers started smoking when they were teens or even younger, and that more than 3,000 kids smoke their first cigarette each day. So how do you do your best to be sure that your kids don’t start smoking? Talk about it. Talk with them about these facts:
Nicotine is highly addictive.
Nicotine is a toxic and addictive drug, and once you are addicted to nicotine, smoking is one of the hardest habits to break. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, people who start smoking when they’re 20 years old or younger have a harder time quitting than other smokers.
Smoking increases the risk for disease and other conditions.
Smoking cigarettes is never a healthy choice. A smoker is at increased risk for high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, lung disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and more.
Smoking doesn’t just put the smoker at risk. Secondhand smoke can be deadly, too.
Exposure to secondhand smoke can increase a person’s risk for asthma, bronchitis, lung disease, heart disease, cancer and more. And since smoking is such a hard habit to break, someone who starts smoking as a teen and continues into adulthood would likely end up exposing his or her kids to the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.
There are ways to deal with peer pressure.
There are good and socially acceptable reasons not to smoke. While some kids may think smoking is cool, many others prefer not to smoke for various reasons. Smoking makes clothes and hair smell bad. Smoking can yellow teeth. Smoking is an expensive habit, and there are other more fun things to spend money on.
There are other ways to assert independence.
The pre-teen and teen years are times when kids will test boundaries and assert their independence. While this is a natural part of growing and maturing, independence can be gained in other ways including demonstrating the responsibility required to have a later curfew or obtain a driver’s permit or license, or by taking the initiative in a creative outlet, hobby or sport.
In addition to talking with your kids, be sure to listen. Listen to what they have to say about smoking, and encourage them to always talk with you about their concerns. Let them know that while choosing not to smoke may not always be easy, it’s always the right choice and you’re always there to listen, talk and help in any way you can.
Here at LiveFree! we hope to be able to be a source of inspiration for and a resource to parents and kids in Pinellas County. Talking to kids can seem tough, but it is entirely necessary. If you are in need of additional points of view, we have a lot of great resources for you to use while preparing to talk to your kids.
Smoking and Tobacco Use (Centers for Disease Control)
Smoking and Youth (MedLine Plus)
Smoke Free Natrona County Talking Points (Tobacco Free Kids)