Call it peer pressure, curiosity, adolescent stress or the perception that smoking cigarettes is cool, but kids these days do start smoking young. According to statistics, at least one in every five teenagers between the age of 13-15 smokes!* Scary right? It gets worse! Kids who start smoking early are also at a risk of developing-
¬ Breathing problems
¬ Chronic cough and asthma
¬ Low immunity
¬ Addiction to drugs and alcohol
¬ Lung infections
So to make sure your kid does not add to these statistics, early intervention is essential.
Signs of Smoking Cigarettes
The following physical symptoms are among the most obvious signs that your kid may have started smoking cigarettes-
¬ The smell of cigarettes generally lingers on in clothes, so if your kid’s clothes smell of smoke or he/she comes back home smelling like an ashtray, chances are it’s not’ just his/her friends who smoke cigarettes!’ Even if it is the friends, you must insist that your child doesn’t hang around them when they smoke; passive smoking after all is only a little less harmful than active smoking.
¬ Excessive use of cologne or perfume can also be an indication that your child has started smoking cigarettes, especially if his/her clothes often wear small burn marks.
¬ If you smoke yourself, keep a count of the cigarettes in your box and be aware of exactly how much cash you have in your wallet. Since teens live on allowance, it’s not easy for them to support their habit. Nicking cigarettes from you or even small amounts of cash from your wallet may seem like lucrative options to them.
¬ Keep a track of your teen’s movements; does he/she disappear mysteriously around certain times everyday? Does he/she come back reeking heavily of cologne or perfume? If yes, then chances are that your teen has been taking cigarette breaks.
¬ Yellowing teeth, lethargy, blackening lips, yellow nails and poor skin, frequent coughing attacks, are other indications that your kid may have started smoking cigarettes.
Once you have figured that your teen has fallen into the smoking trap, what next? Getting them to drop the habit after all is easier said than done! So, here are a few suggestions that will help you deal with your child’s smoking habit-
¬ Talk to them in a non-accusatory and calm manner. Adopting an aggressive tone may backfire. You need to explain to your child just how dangerous smoking cigarettes can be for their health.
¬ If you smoke yourself, you need to quit the habit first. Otherwise your child is not going to take you seriously when you discuss the harmful side effects of smoking cigarettes with him/her.
¬ Join an exercise program with them, doing something fun and healthy together will not only give you more bonding time but will also help you make them understand the importance staying physically fit and healthy.
¬ Talk to their friends’ parents as well if you feel peer pressure is pushing your teen to smoke cigarettes.
These are steps that you’ll have to take after you have discovered that your child smokes. But isn’t it better to prevent the problem? Here’s how to go about it-
¬ Don’t ever offer cigarettes to your kids, even as a joke.
¬ Discuss the dangers of smoking cigarettes and tell your kids about friends or family members who developed serious diseases because of smoking.
¬ Never ever smoke in front of your kids.
¬ Try and look at things from your teens’ perspective, discuss peer pressure with your kids and teach them how to say “no” and refuse offers to smoke without sounding ‘uncool’.
¬ Develop a culture of physical fitness and healthy living at home.
At the end of the day your teen needs to understand that there is nothing ‘cool’ about smoking cigarettes! These suggestions and tips will hopefully help you ensure the same.