Numbers can be scary, especially the numbers regarding youth smoking rates. Did you know that nearly 4,000 kids under 18 will smoke their first cigarette today? And of those who tried cigarettes, over 1,000 will go on to become daily smokers? Those numbers are scary, but we can do something about it. The Food and Drug Administration Center for Tobacco Products (FDA CTP), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin came together last Thursday on Twitter to discuss this tobacco epidemic among young people and share ideas for parents on how to discuss this topic with their children. Some of the information from Time2Talk is worth repeating:
“You are your child’s #1 role-model.” Children look up to their parents and want to be just like them. If your child sees you using tobacco, they are more likely to see using tobacco as normal behavior. According to U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, MD, if you are a smoker, your child is twice as likely to become a smoker themself.
“Youth are sensitive to nicotine,” according to the FDA. he younger the kids are when they begin smoking, the more likely they are to become addicted. Smoking-related diseases, such as early cardiovascular disease, can affect teens who smoke. Other health problems from smoking include increased wheezing, impaired lung growth and lung function, and DNA damage from cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco. In fact smoking causes one in three cancer deaths in the U.S.
“Young people are susceptible to social influences.” Those teens who have friends that smoke are more likely to begin to smoke themselves. Another influence includes seeing smoking in movies and on television; the more smoking is perceived as normal, the more socially acceptable it appears to teens. Marketing to teens by tobacco companies have also promoted tobacco products, according to tobacco industry documents.
Talking to your child about tobacco is the most important way you can prevent them from using tobacco. Start your conversation early in their school years and let them know you expect them to be tobacco-free. Explain the dangers of using tobacco and allow them to ask questions. Help them avoid tobacco by practicing saying “no” to peer pressure.
Taking “Time 2 Talk” with your child will help keep them healthy and tobacco-free.