Smoking

With all that is known about the dangers of smoking today, one would think the industry would be dead. And yet, teens still choose to smoke. Don't think trying it is a given. Rather, work to educate your child all you can to make the “right choice.”

Peer Pressure and Smoking

Your child may grow up thinking smoking is not cool, and make a big display out of it when she is younger. But something shifts as girls become teens (and it is important to note here that girls have now surpassed boys in cigarette use). First, just about every fashion model on earth is a smoker (and this instills in girls' still impressive minds that smoking equates to thinness, just one of the many issues around the choice to smoke or not). Somehow, certain teen girls decide that anything they thought was uncool as a kid must be cool now that they are “mature” teens. They may feel peer pressure from their friends who decide to try smoking, and that's a powerful force to fight.

Fact

In the 1990s, the American Cancer Society launched a nationwide program called the “Smoke-Free Class of 2000,” with the goal of having that class graduate from high school smoke-free. Despite millions of dollars poured into it, it failed.

Don't assume because your child is a “jock” or a “brain” that she will not smoke either. Remember, all kids of all types face pressure and also mirror what they see in pop culture from time to time. More than a few Hollywood teen celebrities have been shown with cigarettes dangling from their mouths in magazines and on TV. No girl is completely immune from that. So what do you do? Try to educate your child from the start and all the way through the realities of smoking. Do not depend on the cigarette company Web sites, as willing as they now seem to be to share information on kids and smoking and the dangers. Instead, make clear your rules and keep them known. Children do not smoke in your family, period. Let your daughter know your own personal ramifications (“If I find that you have smoked I'll lose trust in you and not be able to give you some freedoms” is a good one). Remind her and stick to it.

When Mom or Dad Is a Smoker

Is it hypocritical not to allow your child to smoke if you smoke? Not at all. It is illegal to purchase cigarettes as a minor or for a minor. As an adult, it is legal for you to smoke. That's the clear difference. But what about the ethics of smoking? Sure, it's your right, but as your daughter grows, this might be a good time to set an example and attempt to quit. As you try, let her share the experience with you so she can see how powerful and addictive an agent tobacco is. Help her see the danger. Explain how much you want to not smoke and what you'd give to turn time back and have never started. Even if you fail over and over, you might win her respect and at the very least, teach her a valuable lesson in battling addiction. Or better yet, she can experience teaching you a lesson. Cigarette smoking is the single most preventable cause of premature death in the United States. Each year, more than 400,000 Americans die from cigarette smoking. In fact, one in every five deaths in the United States is smoking related. Every year, smoking kills more than 276,000 men and 142,000 women.

Show her respect too by not smoking where it is not allowed or where it endangers the health of others. Don't smoke in your car even when she's not with you. Don't smoke in the house ever, and don't smoke around others. Show her that you understand the danger secondhand smoke can present to others and that while you are battling your own addiction, you will not let it hurt her or anyone else. If you can at least do that, she'll believe you when you talk of the other dangers of smoking too and hopefully, take heed.

Alert

It is okay to tell your daughter that addiction is often familial. If you ended up addicted to smoking, chances are if she starts, she will too. And while smoking does not lead directly to other addictions, those who become addicted to smoking tend to become addicted to other vices they try.

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