Every day in BC, approximately 20 kids start smoking. That’s 7300 children newly addicted to nicotine every year! What can you do to ensure that your son or daughter isn’t one of them?
In a word – talk! Children whose parents talk to them about the dangers of smoking are much less likely to start. This is especially true if one or both parents smoke - the odds a child stays smoke free more than doubles.
Ask them about what they already know about smoking and how they feel about it. Let your children know how you feel about smoking – tell them clearly that you don’t approve, even if you are a smoker. If you are a non-smoker, explain why you don’t smoke. If you are a smoker, talk clearly and honestly about the addictive power of cigarettes and how difficult it is to stop.
To reinforce how you feel about smoking, and to protect everyone in your family from exposure to second hand smoke, do not allow smoking inside your home. If you are a smoker always go outside to smoke.
The average age when kids start smoking in BC is 12 to 13 years – an age when appearance is usually very important. Talk about how smoking causes bad breath, smelly clothes, and stained fingers and teeth. Stick to the more immediate effects rather than the long-term effects.
At this age many teens are also concerned about money. Talk about the dollar costs of smoking and have them do the math. A pack a day smoker will spend over $2500 in a year - which could buy a lot of CDs!
More tips for improving the odds that your child will be smoke free:
- Encourage smoke free friends. If his or her friends do not smoke, the odds of your child smoking are greatly reduced.
- Teach your child to say no. At some point, your child will likely be offered a cigarette. Take some time to prepare him or her about how to say no before the situation arises.
- Don’t fall into the trap of believing that smoking is safer than other risky behaviors. Your child is at serious risk of short and long term health consequences if they smoke. Smoking-related illnesses kill more people than murder, car accidents, suicide, and AIDS combined.
Even if your child has already started smoking, it still isn’t too late! Most smokers want to quit. With ongoing encouragement and support, they can be successful.
For more information about tobacco and how to stop smoking, contact your local health unit or visit the www.tobaccofacts.org and www.quitnow.ca websites. Anyone looking for help can also arrange for an appointment with Northern Health’s Nicotine Intervention Counseling Centres. These are available through local health units.
With tobacco use rates in Northern BC among the highest in the province there are important health reasons to discuss the issue of tobacco with your child. The good news is that children who make it to age 16 without smoking will probably never smoke!