Parents are the single biggest influence in their kid’s lives. Use your voice and let your kids know that smoking is bad news. Your adolescents may seem to be tuning you out and accuse you of lecturing, but they are listening. Discuss the dangers of adolescent smoking with them early and often.
The smoking facts in this article have been compiled with adolescents in mind. Arm yourself with knowledge and information that will get your youngster’s attention.
The ingredients and additives in cigarettes when burned, create toxic, harmful chemical compounds. There are over 4000 chemicals in cigarette smoke, and more than 40 of them are known carcinogens.
Smokers inhale some pretty disgusting things with every puff:
• Acetone It’s in nail polish remover and it’s in cigarettes.
• Ammonia We use this chemical to clean our houses.
• Benzene This chemical is used in manufacturing gasoline.
• Carbon Monoxide It’s in car exhaust, and it’s in cigarette smoke.
• Formaldehyde This is what they use to preserve dead bodies. It’s also used as an industrial fungicide, is a disinfectant, and is used in glues and adhesives.
• Hydrogen Cyanide This chemical is used to kill rats and it was used during WWII as a genocidal agent. Smokers inhale it with every puff.
• Tar Yes, the same thing they use to pave streets and driveways. Ever notice how smoker’s teeth are yellow? Tar is responsible for that.
And of course, there is Nicotine, the drug responsible for an addiction that smokers spend years and years trying to break.
Secondhand Smoke Facts—
Cigarette smoke is full of harmful chemicals. Breathing in secondhand smoke is harmful for smokers and nonsmokers alike. Smokers suffer a double dose though, increasing the destructive effects of secondhand smoke.
• Secondhand smoke can produce six times the pollution of a busy highway when in a crowded restaurant.
• Secondhand smoke causes 30 times as many lung cancer deaths as all regulated pollutants combined.
• Secondhand smoke causes up to 300,000 lung infections (such as pneumonia and bronchitis) in infants and young kids each year.
• Secondhand smoke causes wheezing, coughing, colds, earaches, and asthma attacks.
• Secondhand smoke fills the air with many of the same poisons found in the air around toxic waste dumps.
• Secondhand smoke kills about 3,000 nonsmokers each year from lung cancer.
Other facts about smoking:
• Addicted smokers tend to use more nicotine over time. The habit usually grows. What starts out as 5 or 10 cigarettes a day usually becomes a pack or two a day habit eventually.
• Every day 1,200 Americans die from smoking-related illnesses.
• Every day in the United States alone, approximately 3,000 kids under the age of 18 start smoking.
• It is estimated that approximately 4.5 million adolescents in the United States are smokers.
• People who smoke a pack a day die on average 7 years earlier than people who have never smoked.
• Smoking is the single most preventable cause of premature death in the United States.
• Smoking-related illnesses claim more American lives than alcohol, car accidents, suicide, AIDS, homicide and illegal drugs combined.
• Spit tobacco, pipes and cigars are not safe alternatives to cigarettes. “Light” or “low-tar” cigarettes aren’t safe either.
• Adolescent smokers are more likely to use alcohol and other drugs.
• Adolescent smokers get sick more often than adolescents who don’t smoke.
• Adolescent smokers have smaller lungs and weaker hearts than adolescents who don’t smoke.
• Those who start smoking young are more likely to have a long-term addiction to nicotine than people who start smoking later in life.
Be proactive! Give your kids a solid anti-smoking foundation that will help them resist outside influences encouraging them to smoke as they go through their formative years. It’s up to us as parents to do all that we can to protect our kids from the dangers that tobacco use presents. Education about nicotine addiction is the best place to start.
Adolescent smoking is a big deal. After all, adolescents who smoke are likely to turn into adults who smoke. If you find your adolescent smoking, take it seriously. Stopping adolescent smoking in its tracks is the best way to promote a lifetime of good health.
You could simply tell your adolescent to stop smoking. It's an important message. But commands, threats and ultimatums aren't likely to work. Instead of getting angry, be curious and supportive. Ask your adolescent what made him or her start smoking. Perhaps your adolescent is trying to fit in at school, or maybe your adolescent thinks that smoking will help relieve stress or pressure. Sometimes adolescent smoking is an attempt to feel cool or more grown-up.
Once you understand why your adolescent is smoking, you'll be better equipped to address smoking as a potential problem — as well as help your adolescent eventually stop smoking.
Encourage your adolescent to share his or her concerns—
Although the consequences of smoking — such as cancer, heart attack and stroke — are real, they're probably beyond the realm of your adolescent's concern. Rather than lecturing your adolescent on the long-term dangers of smoking, you might ask your adolescent what he or she considers the negative aspects of smoking. Once your adolescent has had his or her say, offer your own list of negatives.
Consider appealing to your adolescent's vanity:
• Smoking causes wrinkles.
• Smoking gives you bad breath.
• Smoking leaves you with a hacking cough and phlegm.
• Smoking makes you look pale and unhealthy.
• Smoking makes your clothes and hair smell.
• Smoking turns your teeth and fingernails yellow.
• Smoking zaps your energy for sports and other favorite activities.
Of course, smoking is also expensive. Prompt your adolescent to calculate the weekly, monthly or yearly cost of smoking. You might compare the cost of smoking with electronic gadgets, clothes or other items your adolescent considers important.
Set a good example—
As a parent, you're one of the most powerful influences in your adolescent's life — and your actions speak much louder than your words. If you smoke, don't expect your adolescent to stop smoking. Your adolescent may interpret your smoking as an endorsement for the behavior. Instead, ask your doctor about stop-smoking products and other resources to help you stop smoking. In the meantime, don't smoke in the house, in the car or in front of your adolescent, and don't leave cigarettes where your adolescent might find them. Explain how unhappy you are with your smoking, and why it's so important to you to quit.
Help your adolescent make a plan—
Adolescents may become addicted to nicotine surprisingly quickly — sometimes within just a few weeks. And many adolescents who smoke think they can stop anytime, but research shows this isn't usually true.
When you talk to your adolescent about quitting smoking, ask if any of his or her friends have tried to stop smoking. Consider why they were — or weren't — successful. Then ask your adolescent which stop-smoking strategies he or she thinks might be most helpful.
You might offer your own suggestions as well:
• Be prepared for cravings. Remind your adolescent that if he or she can hold out long enough — usually just a few minutes — the nicotine craving will pass. Suggest taking a few deep breaths. Offer sugarless gum, cinnamon sticks, toothpicks or straws to help your adolescent keep his or her mouth busy.
• Consider stop-smoking products. Although nicotine replacement products — such as nicotine gums, patches, inhalers or nasal sprays — weren't designed for adolescents, they may be helpful in some cases. The same goes for medications such as bupropion (Zyban) and varenicline (Chantix). Ask your adolescent's doctor which options might be best for your adolescent.
• Contact a tobacco-cessation specialist. A tobacco-cessation specialist may give your adolescent the tools and support he or she needs to stop smoking.
• Hang out with friends who don't smoke. Ask your adolescent to think about his or her friends. Would they support your adolescent's stop-smoking plan? Would they try to stop smoking, too? If your adolescent feels pressured to smoke, encourage him or her to get involved in new activities. Making new friends who don't smoke could make it easier to avoid old friends who aren't willing to stop smoking.
• Join a support group. Some hospitals and local organizations offer stop-smoking groups just for adolescents. You might look for adolescent groups online, too.
• Learn from mistakes. If your adolescent slips, remain supportive. Congratulate your adolescent on the progress he or she has made so far, and encourage your adolescent not to give up. Help your adolescent identify what went wrong and what to do differently next time.
• Practice saying no. Peer pressure to smoke may be inevitable, but your adolescent doesn't need to give in. Help your adolescent practice saying, "No thanks, I don't smoke."
• Put it on paper. Encourage your adolescent to write down all the reasons he or she wants to stop smoking. The list can help your adolescent stay motivated when the temptation to smoke arises.
• Set a quit date. Help your adolescent choose a date to stop smoking. Avoid placing the stop date during a stressful time, such as final exams.
Above all, celebrate your adolescent's success. You might offer a favorite meal for a smoke-free day, a new shirt for a smoke-free week or a party with nonsmoking friends for a smoke-free month. Small rewards and plenty of positive reinforcement can help your adolescent maintain the motivation to stop smoking for good.