How to Talk to Your Kids About Tobacco

For decades, young people sneaking a cigarette or dip in the backyard out of their parents’ sight was dismissed as a rite of passage. But these exact moments are when tobacco use begins and for far too many kids, they lead to a lifetime of addiction. It may seem difficult to talk to your kids about tobacco, especially when there are so many other dangers out there. However, this isn’t a conversation that can wait because nine out of 10 smokers start by age 18.1 Every day in the U.S., more than 3,200 youth (18 or younger) try their first cigarette and an additional 2,100 youth and young adults become daily smokers.2

 

Here are some tips:

 

  • If you smoke, the best thing you can do is to quit. Research shows that kids who have a parent who smokes are more likely to smoke and to be heavier smokers at young ages.3 But the good news is that when parents quit smoking, their kids become less likely to start and more likely to quit if they already smoke.4

 

  • Address the problem; don’t ignore it. Despite what kids might have you believe, studies show that parents can have a significant impact on their kid’s behavior, such as whether or not to use tobacco products.5

 

  • Become involved in your kids’ lives and social schedules. Young people whose friends use tobacco are more likely to use tobacco themselves to try to fit in. Meanwhile, kids who do well in school and participate in structured, extra-curricular activities are less likely to be susceptible to smoking.6

 

  • Educate yourself about e-cigarettes, even if you don’t use them yourself. Here are some important things you should know:
    • In Florida, the number of high school students who were current e-cigarette users increased from 10.8 percent in 2014 to 18 percent in 2016.7
    • More than one in three Florida high school students have tried an e-cigarette.8
    • In 2016,  more Florida teens used e-cigarettes than any other tobacco product.9
    • Here are some tips for protecting your kids from the dangers of e-cigarettes:
      • Check their backpacks to know what they are bringing home.
      • E-cigarettes typically won’t make clothes smell of tobacco smoke. If you don’t smell anything, don’t assume they aren’t using products with nicotine.
      • Some e-cigarettes require charging, so check what devices are being charged or if you see an unusual plug.

 

  • Back up the conversation with facts they can relate to. Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of disease and death in the United States.10 Here are some quick facts you can share with your kids:
    • Tobacco use is responsible for about 480,000 deaths a year in the U.S.11 For every person who dies from smoking, about 30 more people suffer from one or more serious illnesses caused by smoking.13
    • Because the adolescent brain is still developing, nicotine use during adolescence can disrupt the formation of brain circuits that control attention, learning and susceptibility to addiction.14
    • Nicotine is highly addictive.16 The pathway for addiction to nicotine is similar to those for heroin and cocaine.17
    • While smoking-related diseases usually occur years after a person starts, smoking has immediate effects on the body.18 Early cardiovascular damage is seen in most young smokers. Those most sensitive die young.19
    • Smoking also affects lung growth. Teens who smoke are not only short of breath today, but they also may end up as adults with lungs that will never grow to full capacity. Such damage is permanent and increases the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).20

 

If you’re a parent who is ready to quit smoking, we have free tools and services that can help. Click HERE to learn more.

 

 


  1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2014). The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health.

2 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking: 50 Years of Progress. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014. Printed with corrections, January 2014.

3 Gilman, SE, et al., “Parental Smoking and Adolescent Smoking Initiation: An Intergenerational Perspective on Tobacco Control,” Pediatrics 123(2): e274-e281, February 2009. Bauman, K, et al., “Effect of parental smoking classification on the association between parental and adolescent smoking,” Addictive Behaviors 15(5):413-22, 1990. See also, Osler, M, et al., “Maternal smoking during childhood and increased risk of smoking in young adulthood,” International Journal of Epidemiology 24(4):710-4, August 1995.

4 Farkas, A, et al., “Does parental smoking cessation discourage adolescent smoking,” Preventive Medicine 28(3):213-8, March 1999.

5 Newman, I, et al., “The influence of parental attitude and behavior on early adolescent cigarette smoking,” Journal of School Health 59(4):150-2, April 1989. See also, Distefan, J, et al., “Parental influences predict adolescent smoking in the United States, 1989-1993,” Journal of Adolescent Health 22:466-74, 1998.

6 Resnick, M, et al., “Protecting adolescents from harm: Findings from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health,” Journal of the American Medical Association 278(10):823-32, 1997. See, also, Kellam, S, et al., “Targeting early antecedents to prevent tobacco smoking: Findings from an epidemiologically based randomized field trial,” American Journal of Public Health 88(10):1490-95, October 1998.

7 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey (FYTS), Florida Department of Health, Bureau of Epidemiology, 2016.

8 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey (FYTS), Florida Department of Health, Bureau of Epidemiology, 2016.

9 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey (FYTS), Florida Department of Health, Bureau of Epidemiology, 2016.

10 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014.

11 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014.

12 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014.

13 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014.

14 England, L. et al. Nicotine and the Developing Human: A Neglected Element of the E -cigarette Debate. Am J Prev Med. 2015 Mar 7. [Epub ahead of print].

15 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2012.

16 USDHHS. The Health Consequences of Smoking – 50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014.

17 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking: Nicotine Addiction. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 1988. DHHS Publication No. (CDC) 88-8406.

18 American Academy of Pediatrics October 1998 Child Health Month Report: The Risks of Tobacco Use: A Message to Parents and Teens; Milam, JE, “Perceived invulnerability and cigarette smoking among adolescents,” Addictive Behaviors 25(1):71-80, January-February 2000.

19 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2012.

20 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2012.

21 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US); National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (US); Office on Smoking and Health (US). How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US); 2010.