The health risks of tobacco are well known, but kids and teens continue to smoke and use chewing tobacco. Many young people pick up these habits every year — in fact, 90% of all adult smokers started when they were kids.
So it's important to make sure kids understand the dangers of tobacco use. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States, and can cause cancer, heart disease, and lung disease. Chewing tobacco (smokeless or spit tobacco) can lead to nicotine addiction, oral cancer, gum disease, and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks.
Giving kids information about the risks of smoking and chewing tobacco, and establishing clear rules and your reasons for them, can help protect them from these unhealthy habits.
You also should know the warning signs of tobacco use and constructive ways to help someone kick the habit.
One of the major problems with smoking and chewing tobacco has to do with the chemical nicotine. Someone can get addicted to nicotine within days of first using it. In fact, the nicotine in tobacco can be as addictive as cocaine or heroine. Nicotine affects mood as well as the heart, lungs, stomach, and nervous system.
Other health risks include short-term effects of smoking such as coughing and throat irritation. Over time, more serious conditions may develop, including increases in heart rate and blood pressure, bronchitis, and emphysema.
Finally, numerous studies indicate that young smokers are more likely to experiment with marijuana, cocaine, heroin, or other illicit drugs.
Kids might be drawn to smoking and chewing tobacco for any number of reasons — to look cool, act older, lose weight, win cool merchandise, seem tough, or feel independent.
But parents can combat those draws and keep kids from trying — and getting addicted to — tobacco. Establish a good foundation of communication with your kids early on to make it easier to work through tricky issues like tobacco use.
To help prevent your kids from using tobacco, keep these guidelines in mind:
If you smell smoke on your child's clothing, try not to overreact. Ask about it first — maybe he or she has been hanging around with friends who smoke or just tried one cigarette. Many kids do try a cigarette at one time or another but don't go on to become regular smokers.
Additional signs of tobacco use include:
Sometimes even the best foundation isn't enough to stop kids from experimenting with tobacco. It may be tempting to get angry, but it's more productive to focus on communicating with your child.
Here are some tips that may help:
Kids are quick to observe any contradiction between what their parents say and what they do. Despite what you might think, most kids say that the adult whom they most want to be like when they grow up is a parent.
If you're a smoker:
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: February 2013
|Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Launched in September, 1995, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids was created to protect young people from tobacco addiction. Contact them at: Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids|
1400 Eye St.
Washington, DC 20005
|Smokefree.net The goal of the Smokefree.net is to win the right to breathe smokefree air, facilitate communication among smokefree advocates and key decision makers, and share information about the tobacco cartel.|
|Kick Butts Day The annual Kick Butts Day is the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids' annual celebration of youth advocacy, leadership and activism.|
|TobaccoFree.org This site includes links to online anti-smoking resources.|
|QuitNet QuitNet offers tips, tools, and help for those who want to quit smoking.|
|American Lung Association The mission of this group is to prevent lung disease and promote lung health. Contact the group at: American Lung Association|
61 Broadway, 6th Floor
NY, NY 10006
|Smokefree.gov This site contains facts and information about how to quit smoking.|
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|Smoking and Asthma Smoking - or even breathing in secondhand smoke - can make asthma worse. Find out more in this article for kids.|
|Smoking Smoking is on the decline, but some people are still lighting up. Why? The answer is addiction. Find out more in this article for teens.|
|Secondhand Smoke Experts now know that breathing in someone else's secondhand smoke is hazardous to our health. Find out what you can do about it.|
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|Stop Smoking Guide This interactive feature helps you come up with a plan to stop smoking.|
|Stop Smoking: Your Personal Plan This interactive feature helps you come up with a plan to stop smoking.|
|How Can I Quit Smoking? Nearly 1 in 5 deaths in the United States is related to tobacco. Are you ready to kick the habit?|
|How Can I Help My Teen Quit Smoking for Good? Find out what the experts say.|
|What Kids Say About: Tobacco Everyone knows tobacco is unhealthy, but what do kids think about it? We asked 1,433 kids to give us their opinions.|
|Smokeless Tobacco Chewing or dipping: These terms are familiar to the millions of teens who use smokeless tobacco. If you're ready to quit or you want to learn more about smokeless tobacco, read this article.|
|Smoking and Asthma Being a smoker is an obvious risk for kids and teens with asthma, but just being around people who smoke - and breathing in secondhand smoke - can cause problems, too.|
|Helping a Parent Who Smokes You love your mom and dad, but what if they smoke? Find out how you can help them be healthier.|
|Dealing With Peer Pressure Did you ever feel like another kid was trying to get you to do something you didn't want to do? If so, you've felt peer pressure. Find out more in this article for kids.|
|Nicotine: What Parents Need to Know Nicotine is a highly addictive stimulant. Those who start smoking before age 21 have the hardest time breaking the habit.|
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