Of all the statistics on tobacco use, the most staggering is that, every day, more than 3,000 children start smoking. While the number of adult smokers has declined, several studies have shown an uptick in teen smoking in the past decade. And the pressures to smoke – from peers and media – only increase as kids enter adolescence.
Here is a step-by-step strategy for parents on how to prevent children from smoking and help them choose to be tobacco-free.
The average age kids begin smoking is 13. By age 18, 35% are regular smokers. Nearly 90% of smokers begin by age 19. Parents don’t have a lot of leverage unfortunately. People get pleasure from cigarettes, but it’s pleasure at a great cost.
Kids are smart. If so many people are doing it, they ask, “What’s the appeal?” So don’t lecture. Instead, take a deep breath and relax. Have an open mind. Then, talk. It’s not just talking about the dangers. It’s important to have the type of climate at home where kids are willing to talk about anything.
When parents find out their child is a smoker, they hit the roof – and the kids go underground. Despite all the money and effort to keep tobacco off limits to kids, little has changed to dampen its allure.
While many states vow to spend a big chunk on anti-smoking initiatives aimed at kids, it may take years to measure their effectiveness. Many activists blame the tobacco industry’s huge ad budget for getting children hooked on smoking. Others point to consider are movies and music videos in which young stars chain-smoke.
The lesson should begin at home. Instead of telling adolescents what to do, we should help them to learn how to think for themselves. We should teach our kids to meet their needs in healthier ways. Get your kids to talk about smoking.
Before they start smoking
Use an event that involves smoking to introduce the topic. Example: Sitting beside smokers in a restaurant. Ask: Why do people smoke? Discuss the health consequences.
If they’ve already started
Unravel the motivation. Ask: Do you smoke to fit in? To rebel? To relieve stress? Be a problem-solving partner with your kids. Be on their side to find a drug-free way to cope.
For preteens, saying no works. It won’t always work with teens. If you want to keep teens from smoking, use reverse peer pressure: 65% of high school seniors don’t smoke, studies show.