It doesn’t matter if your teen is an athlete, an “A” student or class president, all teens are at risk of smoking. In fact, according to the American Lung Association, each day 4,800 teenagers aged 11 to 17 smoke their first cigarette, and nearly 2,000 will become regular smokers. That is nearly two million teenagers annually.
(This blog is written to inform parents and others of disturbing trends of teenagers.)
- Approximately one-third of teen smokers will die of smoking-related illnesses.
- "Nicotine is considered the #1 entrance drug into other substance abuse problems.”
- The younger a child is when he/she starts smoking, the more likely he/she is to become addicted to smoking.
- It is estimated that 45 million US teens are smokers.
- Tobacco use in teens is associated with a range of health-compromising behaviors, including fighting, carrying weapons, engaging in high-risk sexual behavior, and using alcohol and other drugs.
- Low socioeconomic status.
- Peer pressure.
- One or both parents smoke.
- Low self image/self esteem.
- People they admire smoke.
- It helps them lose weight, reduce stress, etc.
- Ad campaigns tend to emphasize youth, sexual attraction, and independence that appeals to teens.
- Smoking’s biggest draw is the fact that it is an adult activity that is forbidden.
- Clothes and hair frequently smell like smoke.
- You find matches and/or a lighter in their room or backpack.
- They make excuses to go outside.
- They leave bedroom windows open for no reason.
- They start using incense or air freshener in their room.
- There are burn holes in their clothes.
- They have started using mouthwash, breath mints or gum.
- They have friends who smoke.
- First, start talking to your children about smoking long before they become a teenager.
- Discuss the peer pressure to smoke. Role play with your teen so he/she can practice saying, “No thanks, I don’t smoke.”
- Appeal to their vanity. Discuss the consequences of smoking, including bad breath, stinky clothes and hair, yellow teeth, wrinkly skin.
- Discuss health dangers, including shortness of breath that can interfere with activities, such as sports or band. Also discuss the increased risk of cancer, and that the mortality rate in smokers is higher. (You can always show them this picture of a diseased lung.)
- Discuss some of the ingredients found in cigarettes, including
- Tar (found in tires and roads)
- Formaldehyde (used to preserve dead bodies)
- Pesticides (used to kill insects in gardens)
- Arsenic (rat poisoning)
- Cadmium (heavy metal found in car batteries)
- Ammonia (found in cleaning supplies)
- Carbon monoxide (car exhaust)
- Hydrogen cyanide (used to kill people in the gas chambers during WWII)
- Nicotine - (used in pesticides)
I was at work one day when I get a call from the assistant principal at the junior high telling me Hollie will be in ISS (in-school suspension) for possession of cigarettes. So I said, “but Hollie doesn’t smoke”. And he said, “well she was found with a pack of cigarettes in her backpack, and she said they were hers”…well now, didn’t I feel dumb. (I love my daughter. She has made my life so not boring.)
Okay, I was really caught off guard by that phone call. This was the first of Hollie's many teenage escapades. I don't know how long Hollie had been smoking. (She was 14 when I got THE CALL.) But she learned real quick that when she smoked, she had trouble breathing. Hollie would call me upset because she was having trouble breathing, so I would ask her if she was smoking, and she would get quiet, so I knew she was or had been smoking. I had a hard time feeling sympathetic when she had been smoking. I would say, "Hollie stop smoking and you won't have trouble breathing. Keep smoking and it's only going to get worse." I'm not sure how long she smoked. It was maybe a year or two off and on, but she finally decided she liked breathing more than smoking.
Teens today deal with all kinds of peer pressure - smoking, drinking, drugs, sex - but believe it or not, parents are the single greatest influence in their teen's lives. So talk to your teens about smoking.