Getting addicted to cigarettes and tobacco is a problem many teenagers experience and without proper parenting advice, many continue to remain addicted to nicotine. If you are aware your teenafer is smoking, you must do everything in your power to nip this bad habit in the bud and help them avoid a nasty habit that is bound to cause them long term health complications.
Smoking Teenagers: Parenting Dos and Don’ts
These suggestions for parents come from Lyndon Haviland, executive vice president of the American Legacy Foundation (a public health foundation created as part of the 1998 settlement agreement by the states with the tobacco companies):
- Do take nicotine addiction seriously. “When I talk to parents, I sometimes hear, ‘It’s only tobacco’ or ‘They’re just experimenting,’” Haviland says. “It’s critical to understand that teenagers do become addicted, and it’s critical to intervene. For one thing, research shows that cigarettes can be a gateway to use of other drugs and alcohol.”
- Don’t assume teens know the dangers. While the latest teen smoking stats are promising, there are still warning signs hidden behind the headlines. The Monitoring the Future study showed that 43 percent of eighth-graders still do not believe that there is a great risk associated with a-pack-a-day smoking.
- Do talk about (immediate) health consequences and the cost. Teens tend to believe they’ll never get pregnant or die in a car crash, so it may be a waste of time to talk about “someday” dying of lung cancer as a result of smoking. Instead, Haviland and other experts advise parents to focus on short-term health and economic effects: “You get a lot of sore throats because you smoke.” “If you want to run cross-country next semester, you’ll have an easier time if you quit.” “Your teeth are starting to get stained.” Or focus on the money they’re spending: “Gee, you could probably afford your own car if you weren’t spending so much on cigarettes!”
- Don’t underestimate your own influence. “We’ve talked to teens who say, ‘If my mom and dad really cared, they’d push me on it,’” Haviland reports.
- Do talk to your child’s healthcare provider, athletic coaches, and guidance counselors. The more caring adults who know your child smokes, the better, Haviland says. “You’re surrounding your teen with support for cessation behavior. There is nothing wrong with saying to a soccer coach, ‘My daughter will be playing on your team in the fall and I want you to know that she began smoking over the summer.’”
- Don’t turn cigarettes into a “forbidden fruit.” No-smoking rules are fine, but only if they are premised on the dangers associated with cigarettes, not just “Those are my rules and you must obey.” Make sure you tell your teen how much you admire and respect his or her decision not to smoke, or to quit.
- Do look for help. The American Lung Association has a comprehensive program for teens called “NOT.,” — “Not On Tobacco.” Check their website for details at www.lungusa.org. Or visit www.quitnet.com. This site has a calculator to help teens (and adults!) calculate the savings they reap when they kick the habit.