Helping Your Child Say "No" to Tobacco
Cigarette smoking by children and teenagers in the United States is a major public health problem. Smoking in youth seems to determine lifetime smoking habits, as most adult smokers started when they were preteens or teenagers. There's also evidence that people who begin smoking before the age of 20 have the highest rate and earliest beginnings of long-term illnesses such as heart disease and high blood pressure.
Tobacco is the number one preventable cause of death in the United States. Although the percentage of high school students who smoke has gone down in recent years, rates remain high: 22% of high school students report cigarette use.1
Research shows that if your child does not use tobacco products before 18 years of age it is not likely that he or she will begin using them later in life.
Children are learning about smoking and tobacco everyday in school, from friends, from TV and movies. As parents, you can play an important role in helping your child understand the dangers of tobacco use, and teaching them how to stay away from it.
- Be a good role model. Set a good example for your children by not smoking or using other tobacco products -quit now or never start. If you smoke, try to stop right away. In the meantime, don't use tobacco in front of your children. Don't offer it to them and don't leave it where they can easily get it.
- Talk to your children about smoking and tobacco. Start talking to your children about tobacco use at age five or six, and keep talking through their high school years. Many kids start using tobacco by age 11, and many are addicted by age 14. Look for opportunities to talk about the dangers of smoking. Talk directly to children about the risks of tobacco use; if friends or relatives died from tobacco-related illnesses let your kids know. Bring up the subject if you see something about smoking on TV or in the newspaper. Discuss with your kids how tobacco companies use billboards, magazines, movies, and TV try to make smoking look cool.
- Teach your children how to say "no". Know if your kids' friends use tobacco. Talk about ways to say "no" to tobacco. Young people need encouragement and support to stay tobacco free. Help them make a list of reasons not to smoke. Say, "Lets practice saying no. Pretend I'm a friend offering you a cigarette." Teach your children to stand up for what they believe, which can earn them respect from good friends.
- Protect children from secondhand smoke. Make your home smoke-free. Ask people who visit not to smoke inside your home. Avoid smoking in the car or other closed areas. Teach your children the dangers of secondhand smoke and ways to avoid exposure to somebody else's smoke.
You can make a difference! Help your children grow up tobacco free!
If your child is smoking or chewing tobacco, it will be up to him or her to quit. But you can help. Here's how:
- Try to avoid threats and punishment. Find out why your child is smoking. Your child may be influenced by peer pressure or may want to get your attention. Talk to your child about ways to say "no" to tobacco.
- Show your interest in a helpful way. Find out what changes can be made in your child's life to help him/her stop.
- If you smoke, quit. If you did smoke and have already quit, talk to your child about your experience. Tell them what helped you quit.
- Talk to your child's doctor. He or she may be able to help.
- Suggest to your child's friends that they quit together, if a group of them smoke. Offer to help and support them.
- Be supportive. You and your child need to prepare for the mood swings and crankiness that can come with nicotine withdrawal.
- Finally, reward your child when he or she quits. Plan something special for you to do together. Helping your child is one of the best parenting activities you could ever do.
1 3000/day new customers: JAMA, January 6, 1989
2 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services administration. Summary of findings from the 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse: Volume II. Technical appendices and selected data tables. Rockville, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2002;NHSDA Series H-18; DHHS publication no. (SMA) 02-3759.
3 CDC. Office of Smoking and Health, 2002 calculations based upon: Smoking attributable mortality and years of potential life loss United States, 1984. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 1997;46:444-451.
4 A Grunbaum JA, Kann L, Kinchen SA, Ross JG, Hawkins J, Lowry R, et al. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance-United States, 2003. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2004;53(SS-2):1-95.
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