According to the public health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), as of 2005, 450 UK children began smoking everyday.
What is more, almost 80% of the 12 million UK adults who smoke began as teenagers.
But the even worse news is that the earlier smoking begins, the more likely the smoker is to create a lifelong habit, and the odds increase three-fold that he/she will die of cancer as opposed to a smoker who begins later in life.
Obviously this is a hot topic, one in which children’s lives are literally at risk. But can parents really keep their children smoke free in the face of advertising, celebrity idols lighting up, and peer pressure? Of course!
Just the Facts, Ma’am
One of the most effective ways to keep children away from cigarettes and tobacco is to arm them with information. Sit down with your child and explain:
- Smoking is addictive because tobacco smoke contains nicotine.
- Some feel that nicotine can become as addictive as heroin after just a short while.
- Cigarette smoke also contains harmful chemicals like tar, carbon monoxide, DDT, arsenic and formaldehyde. These are substances so toxic you wouldn’t use them in chemistry class!
- Smoking increases your risk of lung and other cancers.
- Chewing tobacco increases your risk of cancer in the mouth, lips and tongue.
- Second hand smoke can cause ear infections, bronchitis and pneumonia in others.
- Smoking, and second hand smoke, can inflame asthma and cause a smoker’s cough, neither of which will help during a sports match.
- Smoking has been linked to high blood pressure and heart disease as well as an increased risk of stroke.
- Smoking dulls the senses of taste, smell and possibly hearing.
- Smoking causes nicotine stains on hands and teeth and leaves a smell in hair and clothes that no cologne or perfume will mask.
- Smoking causes brittle hair and skin, wrinkles, and “ashtray breath”. How attractive will that be to others?
- Smoking is expensive! For a pack a day smoker, thousands of pounds are wasted on cigarettes each year. What else could you do with this money? Holiday? Clothes? Music?
Walk the Talk
Research has found that children whose parents model a smoke free life are much less likely to begin smoking themselves.
- If both parents smoke, a child is twice as likely to smoke as a child raised in a smoke free household.
- Children raised in a household in which only one parent smokes are also more likely to use tobacco than children raised in smoke free households.
- If you are a smoking parent, smoke only outside of the house and never around your children.
- Decide to quit smoking and involve your children in the decision. Let them help you choose a start date, write up reasons for quitting, and select rewards for each milestone you cross as a newly smoke free parent.
Be a Quitter
If your child already smokes, or has expressed any interest in cigarettes or tobacco, encourage them to quit immediately.
- Help your child pick a “stop smoking” date and plan a family celebration.
- Help your child write down all of the reasons he/she wants to quit, and remind them of the list if they seem tempted later.
- Help you child clear away all of their cigarettes, tobaccos, lighters and ashtrays. Keep the house entirely smoke free.
- Spread the word that your child is quitting.
- Buy your child gum, seeds, or sugarless sweets if they find they need something to replace the cigarettes.
- Offer your child small rewards for each smoke free day, then week, then month. Together, choose a “prize” for getting through a smoke free year.
- Take your child to your GP to investigate nicotine replacement patches or gums.
- Find out if there are any support groups in your area for smokers who are trying to quit. Encourage your child to attend if they need a community to help them.
- Be there for your child. If he/she falls back into smoking, let them know that you are there to help them quit again. Don’t let them give in to temptation and throw away all of their hard work!