Up In Smoke: Breaking Down the Myth Of Smoking Being Cool
Parents can do an excellent service to children by talking about smoking and the dangerous effects of tobacco consumption at an early age. Instead of ignoring the problem of children smoking and hoping for the best, maintaining an open line of communication and providing kids with the correct information can empower children to make the right decision.
Understanding the pressures of being a kid
Early on, kids can experience societal pressures to fit in. In middle school, in particular, hormonal and physical changes can lead to rash decisions that do not consider the long-term effects. Most adult smokers started well before the age of 18. While laws aim to protect children from tobacco marketing, kids can still see smoking in movies, TV, and ads.
Nipping the habit in the bud
Because kids’ brains are like sponges, talking to a child early about the dangers of smoking tobacco and even state-legal cannabis is critical. At the age of 5 or 6, children can engage in a meaningful conversation about the subject. Conversations are a long-term affair that requires frequent check-ins as kids mature. The talk should be a conversation, not a lecture.
Enjoy the early years
Parents know all too well that kids grow up so fast. Studies have shown that children that feel closer to parents are less likely to start smoking than children that do not. Engage in bonding activities that can create a lasting connection between parent and child.
Set the rules early on
Parents need to set clear and firm rules about smoking and the consequences. By setting expectations, kids can become aware that parents frown upon smoking, vaping, and similar types of behavior.
Discuss the risks
Kids are not prepared to consider the long-term effects of smoking, such as cancer and heart disease. However, parents can set an early example and show children that smoking can affect short-term health and long-term. Consider explaining the following risks:
- Breathing issues: Over time, smokers can develop respiratory problems such as shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing.
- Addiction: Tobacco companies purposely create highly addictive products that are incredibly hard to quit.
Stay in the know
It is crucial for parents to be involved, although not too concerned, in children’s lives. Knowing children’s friends over the years can help parents assess whether a friend is a bad influence or not. One of the most critical factors in children who start smoking is hanging around others who smoke.
Prevention is key
Part of preventing children from smoking involves explaining how tobacco companies profit from hurting people. If possible, parents should role-play scenarios where kids are offered cigarettes to help kids develop ways to say no. In addition, parents should discuss vaping and electronic cigarettes, which can still get people addicted. Ultimately, developing healthy habits such as sports and after-school activities can help reduce the overall risk of smoking.