By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.
Nicotine is one of the most heavily used addictive drugs in the United States. Cigarette smoking has been the most popular method of taking nicotine since the beginning of the 20th century. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, smoking is the chief cause of preventable deaths in the United States. Nicotine is absorbed readily from tobacco smoke in the lungs, and it does not matter whether the tobacco smoke is from cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. Nicotine also is absorbed readily when tobacco is chewed. Smokeless tobacco (chewing or spit tobacco) can also lead to nicotine addiction, oral cancer, gum disease, and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks.
Secondhand smoke which is a combination of the smoke from a burning cigarette and the smoke exhaled by the smoker is dangerous to everyone especially fetuses, infants and children. This is because it can damage developing organs, such as the lungs and brain.
About 90% of today's adult smokers started as children. If you can keep them from using tobacco when they are adolescents, most people will never start using tobacco. Adolescent tobacco users are more likely to use alcohol and illegal drugs than are nonusers. Cigarette smokers are also more likely to get into fights, carry weapons, attempt suicide, and engage in high-risk sexual behaviors. Preventing youth from starting to smoke is easier than getting them to quit smoking. Even though children are exposed to powerful media messages (TV, movies and music) parents, caregivers, coaches and other adults can still have great influence.
Here are some tips for concerned parents:
- The most significant predictor of youth smoking is parental tobacco use. Set a good example for your children. If you smoke or use other tobacco products, quit. This will also limit children's exposure to second-hand smoke.
- Encourage other adults such as grandparents, caregivers, teachers who are in touch with the child to quit tobacco use.
- The most important way you can prepare to deal with smoking is by establishing good communication. The more you talk with your child, the better chance you have of staying close when things get tough.
- Tell your children that you care. In a recent study, teens who thought their parents would disapprove of them smoking were less than half as likely to smoke as those who thought their parents didn't care.
- Set clear use about the use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. Define and enforce consequences for breaking any of the rules.
- Make yourself available for the child. If your child has any concerns or problems regarding school, peer pressure, emotional trouble or any thing else, make sure that your child can approach you with his/her worries.
- Know your child's friends and people with whom he/she hangs out.
- Talk to your teen about how to respond to those who encourage him/her to smoke.
- If you are a smoker yourself speak to your child firsthand about: how you got started smoking and what you thought about it at the time how hard it is to quit what it costs you financially, socially, and in terms of your health.
Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center, http://www.startingadaycarecenter.com.