Practically no one suddenly decides at 35 years of age to become a smoker. In almost every case, smokers start this habit when they are young, before graduating high school. Pretty much, if you can make it past the teen years without using tobacco, you are never going to use it on a regular basis. As a parent, you’ve got your work cut out for you because even though tobacco companies cannot advertise to the extent they would like, they still get the message out to your children in movies and TV. Smoking still looks cool to many kids and kids typically discount the health risks because the future seems so far away.
If your teen smokes, she probably knows about the health risks, but remind her anyway that smoking causes lung cancer, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and cardiovascular disease. Chewing tobacco comes with its ill effects, too; it can cause cancer of the mouth, throat, stomach and pancreas. Your teen can eventually lose teeth from gum disease chewing tobacco can cause. Smoking is also a huge waste of money that can add up to thousands of dollars a year, money she could better spend on clothes, electronics, going out with her friends or even saving up for a car.
Immediate Health Risks
If your teen smokes, tell him that his overall health will suffer; he will cough, experience shortness of breath, have more frequent headaches, have increased phlegm, have worse cold and flu symptoms and have reduced fitness. His lungs will function worse and smoking effects their growth. He can become addicted to nicotine in both cigarettes and chewing tobacco.
Talk to Your Teen
It’s not a waste of time to talk to your child about the dangers of tobacco use. Believe it or not, you influence your teen more than movies or television. Start the dialog when your child is 5 or 6 years old. According to the American Cancer Society, talking to your teen decreases the likelihood she’ll start using tobacco by 50 percent. Besides discussing the health dangers, tell your child a personal story, if you have one, of a family member or friend who suffered or died from tobacco use. Teens want to look good, so tell your teen that smoking stains her teeth and nails, causes bad breath and makes her hair smell bad. It also will age her sooner by causing wrinkles.
Help Your Teen Quit
Once your child starts smoking or using tobacco, you can help him quit. Ask him why he’s doing it. Usually, teens are trying to fit in with their peer group. Sometimes, they’re trying to get your attention, lose weight or feel independent. Take an interest in this new habit and find out what it’s going to take to get him to quit. For example, if you smoke, offer to quit with him. Emphasize that the longer he smokes, the harder it’s going to be for him to quit. It’s not likely he can just stop, even if he says he can.
The “5 Ds”
The American Cancer Society offers the “5 Ds” you can tell your child to help her: Delay, deep breath, drink water, do something else and discuss. Delay means that when he wants to smoke, delay; the craving should go away. Deep breathing calms your teen. Water flushes out the chemicals. Encourage more healthy activities that she can do besides smoke and tell her that you are always there to listen to her. When she is successful, plan a reward.