Cigarette smoking is the greatest preventable cause of disease in the United States. According to recent studies, 90% of adult smokers began using cigarettes when they were young adults. Teens often begin smoking as a way to look cool, act older, lose weight, seem tough, or feel independent. But thanks to aggressive antismoking campaigns, higher cost per pack, and regulations tied to smoking in public areas and restaurants, many teens are opting to remain smoke free or are trying to kick the habit.
Communicate and Educate
Good communication is key to helping your children say no to cigarettes. Don’t just talk at your children, talk with them. Show your kids that you value their thoughts and opinions as individuals. Don’t use fear as a motivator. It often comes across as judgmental and can put your child on the defense.
Educate your child on the long-term health and financial risks associated with smoking. When your child is 5 years old, begin teaching antismoking values that can help influence future decisions regarding tobacco use. Teach your children how to combat peer pressure and how to walk away from friends who encourage smoking.
Emphasize the ways smoking will affect them now – such as the way it makes them smell and feel – and in the future. If family members have died from smoking or disease caused by smoking, don’t be afraid to tell your children the truth. Besides cutting almost 10 years from a person’s life, smoking also causes:
- Bad breath
- Gum disease
- Premature wrinkles and grayish skin
- Yellowed or stained teeth and fingernails
Also, make a point to encourage physical or other healthy activities and stress how smoking could negatively affect your child’s performance in sports and other athletics.
Be a Role Model
Encourage good habits by being a positive role model. If you’re a smoker, now is a good time to quit. If you are struggling with it, talk to your children about the difficulty you are facing. Children are less likely to smoke if their parents are nonsmokers. Put rules in place that prevent people from smoking in your home, in your vehicle, and around your children. Also, make an effort to avoid businesses, restaurants, and public areas that allow smoking.
Get your kids involved with drug prevention advocacy plans and campaigns to motivate and encourage positive behaviors. The American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout event is a great way to become involved and knowledgeable about the risks associated with smoking.