Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Sue Scheff: Teens Smoking
The health risks of tobacco are well known, yet the rates of smoking and using chewing tobacco continue to grow. Many young people pick up these habits every year — in fact, 90% of all adult smokers started when they were kids. Each day, more than 4,400 kids become regular smokers.
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.
The Facts About Tobacco
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.
Preventing Kids From Picking Up the Habit
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. Some guidelines to keep in mind:
•Discuss sensitive topics in a way that doesn't make kids fear punishment or judgment.
•Emphasize what kids do right rather than wrong. Self-confidence is a child's best protection against peer pressure.
•Encourage kids to get involved in activities that prohibit smoking, such as sports.
•Show that you value your kids' opinions and ideas.
•It's important to keep talking to kids about the dangers of tobacco use over the years. Even the youngest child can understand that smoking is bad for the body.
•Ask what kids find appealing — or unappealing — about smoking. Be a patient listener.
•Read, watch TV, and go to the movies with your kids. Compare media images with what happens in reality.
•Discuss ways to respond to peer pressure to smoke. Your child may feel confident simply saying "no." But also offer alternative responses such as "It will make my clothes and breath smell bad" or "I hate the way it makes me look."
•Encourage kids to walk away from friends who don't respect their reasons for not smoking.
•Explain how much smoking governs the daily life of kids who start doing it. How do they afford the cigarettes? How do they have money to pay for other things they want? How does it affect their friendships?
•Establish firm rules that exclude smoking and chewing tobacco from your house and explain why: Smokers smell bad, look bad, and feel bad, and it's bad for everyone's health.
If Your Child Smokes
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.
Read entire article here: http://teenshealth.org/parent/emotions/behavior/smoking.html#