Keep Teens Tobacco Free

Cigarettes 698294

Parents always want the best for their children. They want them to be successful in school and not get caught up using drugs, alcohol or tobacco. Tobacco is considered a gateway drug — one that is thought to lead to the use of, and dependence on, a harder drug. Research shows teens who smoke cigarettes are 14 times more likely to try marijuana than those who don’t.

Every day in the United States, more than 4,000 teens try their first cigarette and nearly half become regular, daily smokers. Of those, about half eventually will die from a smoking-related disease.

Take a Stand Against Cigarettes
Despite the impact of music, television and movies, parents have the greatest influence on their children’s lives. Studies have found that parental permissiveness, which includes parents not taking a strong stand against their kids using tobacco products, is a key factor in students trying and then developing a cigarette habit.

Start talking to your children at an early age and let them know that tobacco use is dangerous and often deadly. Let them know how serious the addiction to nicotine is and, perhaps, how tobacco has adversely affected you and your family. Be sure you know if your teen’s friends use tobacco, and teach him or her ways to refuse it. Let your teen know that walking away from a person and saying, “No thanks,” or changing the subject are both effective ways to refuse a cigarette that’s offered.

The idea that tobacco use is socially accepted encourages use. The community plays an important role in how your child may perceive tobacco use. Tobacco-free venues decrease the acceptability of tobacco. North Carolina public schools are 100 percent tobacco-free sites because the government feels it is important to set a good example.

A study by the Department of Health and Human Services found that schools that have well-established tobacco-free policies have 40 percent fewer smokers than other schools. Tobacco-free school policies prohibit the use of tobacco products by anyone, including students, staff and visitors on school grounds at all times — that includes basketball games and outdoor athletic events.

Report the Facts
Children become involuntary victims of environmental tobacco smoke when they are around secondhand smoke in a restaurant. Fortunately, all North Carolina restaurants and bars (and many hotels) became smoke-free in early January. Now, when your family chooses to eat out, you don’t have to deal with the 4,000 chemicals lingering in the air due to secondhand smoke.
Smoke-free air protects patrons from the risk of getting lung cancer; heart disease; and serious respiratory illnesses, such as bronchitis and asthma; as well as having low-birth weight babies and experiencing sudden infant death syndrome.

A tax on cigarettes, or a general price increase, also helps reduce tobacco use among adults and teens. Reports show that for each 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes, the overall cigarette consumption is reduced by about 3-5 percent. Even better, the price increase reduces the number of youths who smoke by 6-7 percent. Cigarette taxes and price increases are even more effective in reducing smoking among males, Blacks, Hispanics and low-income smokers.

Talk It Over
While talking with your tween or teen about the long-term health risks is important, don’t overdo it. Most kids have heard it all before, and tune out because the consequences seem so far into the future. They feel it’s something only older people need to be concerned about.

So what else can you do to keep your child off tobacco? Here are some ideas from
• Focus on the immediate physical consequences. Smoking causes bad breath, yellow teeth, smelly clothes and hair, stained fingers and gross-sounding coughs.
• Discuss the ingredients. There are more than 4,000 chemicals in one cigarette, some of which are found in poisonous household chemicals like arsenic (in rat poison) and ammonia (in toilet bowl cleaner).
• Mention the addiction. Teens can get addicted to nicotine with experimental use.
• Emphasize not everyone is doing it. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools reports that in 2008 only 14.4 percent of high school students smoked compared to 22.5 percent of high school students statewide.

Smoke-Free Behavior
How can parents who smoke raise tobacco-free children?
• If you smoke, seek professional help to kick the habit. Talk to your kids about your struggles.
• Don’t smoke in front of your children.
• Keep cigarettes out of sight and out of reach.
• Never offer or provide tobacco to your children.
• Don’t allow smoking inside your home.