I can’t understand why anyone would smoke.
Cigarettes stink, cost a fortune and can kill you. Aren’t those three good reasons not to smoke?
Not for some people.
It pained me when my daughter, now 28, started smoking as a teen. And it angered me that my first wife was an on-again, off-again smoker. If she could quit, I thought, why start up again?
Now, with an 11-year-old son at home, I’m particularly attuned to the prospect of him smoking one day. I don’t think he will. But I didn’t think his older sister would either.
Recently, I saw a lengthy report titled Despite Serious Consequences, Teens Still Start Smoking.
Sadly, I know that’s a true statement. And my son, who is 14 months away from being a teenager, is at risk.
“Within two months of starting to smoke occasionally, 40 percent of adolescent smokers in a study admitted to symptoms of addiction,” according to the report by The Children’s Rights of New York Inc.
That’s alarming. So even a few cigarettes at a party could set your child on a path to becoming a chain smoker.
“This study shows that, far from being a harmless rite of passage for teens, cigarette smoking can be highly addictive at a very early stage and lead to a lifetime of health problems and premature death,” said William V. Carr, executive vice president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, in the study.
What should we do?
How can we as parents stop our kids from smoking?
“Focus on the short-term consequences of smoking when talking to young people,” the report says. “These include stained teeth and fingers, bad breath, smelly clothes and cigarette burns.”
And there’s more bad news about cigarette smoking.
“Smokers also have more colds, more sinus and ear infections, persistent coughing and shortness of breath, and decreased performance in athletics, singing and playing wind instruments,” the study continues. “In addition, smoking has been connected with poor school performance and depression.”
I like this recommendation – emphasize the short-term effects of cigarettes. Teens can’t comprehend the distant future. It’s useless, I think, to tell a kid that smoking could lead him to die early 40 years from now.
A teen thinks about now and maybe a few months down the road. If you say cigarettes can make you stink now and stain your teeth now and perhaps cost you dates now, that could be a powerful message.
But kids are stubborn. Peer pressure is amazingly strong.
Take my adult daughter. She started smoking, I think, when she was about 15. Her mother smoked at the time. My daughter could see the effects of addiction on her mom, and her mother pleaded with her not to start.
But she did anyway and has smoked most of the time since.
It makes me crazy. But because she’s an adult, I have even less control over getting her to stop.
I worry about my son
That’s why my attention is focused on Connor now. He’s a bright, engaging, handsome 11-year-old. I can’t imagine a cigarette in his mouth. I can’t imagine smoke billowing around his head. I can’t imagine the surly attitude that often accompanies teen smokers.
I hope I don’t have to experience what I dread.
“Every day, more than 3,000 American children begin smoking,” the Children’s Rights of New York report says. “Tobacco use is a pediatric epidemic, a continuing tragedy whose magnitude is once again growing.”
Scared? If you have young kids, you should be.
Take action. Read this report. Click on websites run by other health organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Lung Association, Centers for Disease Control, National Institute on Drug Abuse, and Tobacco-Free Kids.
Arm yourself with information to share with your kids. You have a window of opportunity to persuade them to avoid smoking. That window gets a little smaller every day you don’t act.
Kids shouldn’t start smoking, but they do. Instead of getting mad, figure out the best way to reach your child. Think about the arguments that could persuade him or her to leave cigarettes alone – now and in the future.