Despite countless public service announcements, health education and age restrictions on purchasing cigarettes, teenagers still choose to smoke. Most people who smoke later in life started before they were 18, according to KidsHealth. Talk to your teenager about the dangers of smoking and encourage her to quit if she’s already started.
Some of the health risks of smoking seem so far down the line that they may not even cross a teenager’s mind. Lung cancer and emphysema are real consequences of smoking, but they seem distant concerns to a teenager. Dangers of smoking that a teenager is more likely to be concerned with are yellowed teeth and more cavities, prematurely wrinkled skin and a longer recovery time from a cold. Teenagers who smoke also commonly suffer from bad breath. If your teenager is an athlete, she may not perform as well as she did before she began smoking, due to reduced circulation and trouble catching her breath.
Cigarettes are expensive, not just in terms of the price of a pack or carton, but in terms of increased health care costs. If your teenager continues to smoke into adulthood, he will have to pay a higher price for life insurance or health insurance. Some insurance companies won’t cover illnesses caused by smoking or tobacco use. Since smoking increases a person’s risk of developing illness or worsens any illnesses a person may develop, he may have to spend more time at the doctor’s office or more money on medications.
Other Risky Behavior
For some teenagers, smoking can lead to other inappropriate and dangerous behavior, such as drinking or using illegal drugs or engaging in high-risk sexual activity, according to the American Cancer Society. Smokers may also be more likely to get into fights or otherwise threaten physical harm than non-smokers. In some cases, a teenager may start smoking as a way to cope with a mental illness, such as depression.
About one-fourth of people who start smoking in their teenage years continue to smoke throughout their lives and die in middle age, according to England’s National Health Service. Smoking also affects a teenager’s future fertility. According to the NHS, women who smoke have an increased chance of miscarriage and are more likely to have fertility problems. Smoking can also cause fertility troubles in men.
Preventing Teenage Smoking
Talk to your teenager from childhood on about the dangers of smoking and using other tobacco products. If you smoke, you should do your best to quit to set a good example for your teenager. Use your own smoking as a way to show teenagers the real risks of the habit and how difficult it is to stop once you’ve started. Be open and honest with your teenager. Provide a supportive ear to listen to his concerns about tobacco use and any pressure he’s feeling from peers.