Dear Dr. Levister: Recently my 11-year-old son came home from school reeking of cigarette smoke. I’m afraid to confront him. S.H.
Parents often feel powerless against the tough issues teens face because they cannot control their teen's choices. While it is true that teens need to make their own choices, parents do have more influence than they think. Become knowledgeable and empowered about the tough choices your teen faces every day.
Here are some facts: Every day in the United States, more than 3,000 young people become regular smokers-that's more than one million new smokers a year. The pull to smoke is not just affecting someone else's kid. Your teen sees the glamorous advertising, has peers who smoke and is as vulnerable to becoming a smoker as much as anybody else's teen. And yes, teens who play sports and are considered 'good kids' smoke too.
Nearly all first time smoking happens before high school graduation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If your teen hasn't started smoking before he/she graduates, chances are he/she never will. That is good news. It means that you have the time to influence your teen and their choices.
Your teen needs to hear that smoking is bad for him/her from you. While your teen's friends may seem to be more important to your teen, you are his/her number one choice to learn about values. This is the time to make it count. Send a clear message to your teen that you consider smoking to be unhealthy. Be sure to do this with facts and try not to use scare tactics that will only backfire.
In days of old it may have been considered cool to smoke. Today with all the results of studies showing life threatening diseases and illnesses we realize it is not cool at all to smoke. But the addiction to nicotine is said to be comparable to heroin, so it is not an easy habit to break.
Studies show that fifty people per hour around the world die as a result of smoking. That is twelve hundred people every day. The average smoker looses an estimated twelve years of life due to complications from smoking such as cancer, stroke and heart attack.
According to American Cancer Society 'the best school health classes won't have much effect on the students who already smoke, unless those teens are also offered professional help to quit.' Teens do not realize they are addicted until it is too late. Among adolescents aged 10 - 18, about three-fourths of daily cigarette smoker’s report that they continue to use tobacco because it is really hard for them to quit. Your teen needs to team up with you and a doctor in order to kick this nasty habit. It is worth your time and money to help your teen get through this problem.
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