Kids and Smoking: Everything Parents Need to Know
Statistics show that many adult smokers had their first experiences of smoking as children, and many parents are understandably concerned about the chances of their own kids smoking. But why do kids smoke, and what can you do to prevent your kids from smoking? Read on for all you need to know.
- What Are the Statistics for Kids and Teens Smoking?
- What Exactly Are Kids Smoking?
- Why Do Kids Start Smoking?
- How Do I Know That My Kid’s Smoking?
- How to Prevent Kids From Smoking?
- Tips for Parents if Your Kid Is Already Smoking
- Is It Legal to Smoke in Front of the Kid?
What Are the Statistics for Kids and Teens Smoking?
Statistics and studies show that teenage smoking is still a serious problem in today’s world, even with higher levels of awareness about the risks and dangers.
Smoking by youth and young adults can cause serious and potentially deadly health issues immediately and into adulthood. Tobacco affects lung function and growth. The effect of the secondhand smoking is no less harmful. It hurts brain and immune system.
Studies show that tobacco use is generally started and established during teenage years. In fact, each day, around 1,600 youths try their first cigarette and 200 begin to smoke daily. Around 5.6 million children can die early from smoking.
To put this into perspective, recent figures suggest that 1 in every 100 middle school students smoke cigarettes once a month, with that figure doubling for high school students. For e-cigarettes, the figures are more dramatic, with 1 in 35 middle school students using e-cigs monthly and 1 in 9 high school students doing so.
In total, when we look at combined statistics for all tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, hookahs and electronic devices, 4% of middle school students and 13% of high school students use these products. Parents should think about healthcare and prevent their kids from smoking.
What Exactly Are Kids Smoking?
The statistics show that kids and teenagers are using a wide range of different tobacco products. In the past, the main concern for parents was cigarette use in young people. However, in the modern world, it’s actually e-cigarettes that are most commonly used, followed by cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, hookahs, heated tobacco products, and finally, pipes.
Why Do Kids Start Smoking?
There are many reasons why children or teens may choose to smoke, including:
- To Fit In. Some young people try tobacco products as a way to keep up with trends or fit in with groups or popular people at school, as they fear being left out or isolated.
- Imitation. Many young people look at their parents or siblings as role models and imitate their behavior. If they have a parent who smokes, they may want to copy that behavior.
- Rebellion. Teens often have a rebellious nature and thirst for independence. This can make them act out or do things that their parents have told them not to.
- Curiosity. Some teens are simply curious about what it feels like to smoke a cigarette or try an electronic cigarette. But this curiosity can lead to addiction.
- Media. Kids can be impressed by how tobacco usage is shown in certain films, TV shows, or video games and want to copy their favorite characters.
- Genetics. Some studies suggest that certain genetic factors can lead to teens being more sensitive to nicotine and finding it hard to quit smoking once they start.
- Mental Health. Many teens who smoke use cigarettes and tobacco as a coping mechanism to deal with their anxiety, depression, or other mental health problems.
- Lack of Guidance or Education. Some teens are not aware of the risks of smoking, due to a lack of education from teachers or guidance from parents.
Who Is Most at Risk for Tobacco and E-cigarette Use?
Studies suggest that the following groups of teens are most at risk of using tobacco products:
- those from low-income backgrounds;
- those with low levels of education;
- those with a lack of parental guidance;
- those with mental health conditions;
- those who are doing poorly at school;
- those who are regularly exposed to smoking at home.
How Do I Know That My Kid’s Smoking?
There are certain signs you can watch out for to see if your child may be smoking, such as:
- a smoke smell on their clothing;
- frequent coughing or throat irritation;
- bad breath;
- stained teeth;
- stained clothes;
- changes in behavior;
- shortness of breath;
- weaker than usual athletic or sporting performance.
It’s important to note that these signs could be indicative of other things. For example, if you smell smoke on their clothes, they may just have been hanging around with a friend who smokes. But don’t be too trustful. Think that if your kid’s friend’s smoking, why shouldn’t they do the same? The first reason of the kids and teenager smoking is to fit in, as we said before.
But the lack of smell is no proof of innocence. E-cigarettes can be flavourless, so pay attention to other signs.
How to Prevent Kids From Smoking?
Kids will eventually make up their own minds about smoking, one way or another, but it’s part of your responsibility, as a parent, to guide them in the right direction. There are various steps you can take to discourage your children from smoking.
Be a Good Role Model
As stated earlier on, kids look at their parents as role models and often imitate the behavior of their mothers and fathers. If your kids see you smoking, they’ll think that it’s normal and may be more likely to try it themselves. Set a good example for them by not smoking, or try and quit if you are already a smoker.
Educate Your Kids About Tobacco
Another great way to discourage kids from smoking is to educate them about it. There are lots of great resources out there, such as the CDC or Nemours, as well as videos on YouTube and other platforms which highlight the dangers of smoking. If kids find out about how smoking can harm their lungs, reduce their lifespan, and harm those around them, they’ll be less likely to try it.
Encourage Smoke-free Activities
You can also encourage your kids to take up activities that are smoke-free, like sports and athletics. Smoking makes it much harder for young people to compete in sports and games, as they run out of breath more quickly. So, if you can get your kids into sports early on, they’ll be less likely to turn to tobacco and more likely to make smoke-free friends, too.
Tips for Parents if Your Kid Is Already Smoking
If your kid is already smoking, and you want to encourage them to stop or at least lessen the amount of tobacco products they use, here are some steps you can follow:
- Communicate. Communication is absolutely key here. Speak with your children in a mature and calm way. Find out why they use tobacco, what they like about it, and possible alternatives they could consider.
- Look for Other Options. Maybe your child is smoking because of anxiety or depression, for example. You could seek out alternative ways to help them, like visiting a therapist or starting a new hobby, which could reduce their reliance on tobacco as a coping mechanism.
- Set Rules. Set rules in your home, like no smoking in the house, to show that you don’t approve of the behavior.
- Educate. Continue to speak with your child about the risks and dangers of smoking, so they know that possible harm they could do to their bodies if they continue.
- Explain. Calmly and maturely explain to kids how smoking can turn into expensive and life-destroying addictions for so many people, and ask your kids if they really want to continue down that road.
- Set Up a Quitting Plan. If your child is willing to quit, work with them to create a quitting plan and try to share the process with them, so they don’t feel alone.
- Speak with a Professional. You can encourage your child to meet with a doctor to discuss possible treatment plans and ways of quitting.
Should You Punish Them?
It’s natural to be concerned and angry if you discover that your child is smoking. However, experts tend to be in agreement that punishment is not an effective solution. Many say that punishment is not a useful approach as kids may not understand why they are being punished or may become even more separated from their parents and more determined to not do what they say.
Instead of punishment, it’s better to focus on communication and discipline. This means that you should sit down with your child and actually talk things out in a calm and reasonable manner. Teens tend to respond much better to this kind of response, as they want to feel mature and listened to, like adults, rather than treated like young children.
Speak with your child about why they started smoking and find out as much as you can about what appeals to them about it, if their friends do it, how often they do it, and how aware they are of the risks and dangers. You can then educate them further about the risks and potentially discuss ways to quit, as well as letting them know your own beliefs and setting your house rules on the matter.
If you want to know more about the difference between punishment and discipline, read the article Ways To Discipline Your Child or Why Punishment Doesn’t Work.
Is It Legal to Smoke in Front of a Kid?
It depends on the circumstances. In some states and other places around the world, it is illegal to smoke in cars or other enclosed places where children are present. However, in the US, there is no national legislation against exposing kids, infants, or teens to secondhand smoke.
Can You Smoke in the Car with Kids?
This depends on your location. Several states have brought in laws to ban smoking in vehicles with children. There are also different countries around the world that have bans in place on smoking in vehicles with kids present.
Where Is it Illegal?
The states of Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Maine, Oregon, Utah, and Vermont, as well as Puerto Rico, have all outlawed smoking in cars with children. It’s also illegal in several countries like Australia, Canada, France, and the United Kingdom.
Bring no harm to children
Smoking is a harmful habit for all people, especially young. It’s really addictive. Hardly had a kid tried a cigarette than he couldn’t stop. And the secondhand smoking is no healthier. Let’s prevent our kids from smoking together! Write your story in the comments and share this article with your parents-friends.
The picture on the front page: Natallia Boroda/Shutterstock.com
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