The vast majority of parents do not want their kids to smoke, for obvious reasons. Smoking causes a wide range of serious health problems – including lung cancer, heart disease, and strokes – and frequently results in premature disability and death. To make matters worse, kids can start becoming seriously addicted to smoking very quickly, just weeks or even days after first “experimenting” with 1 cigarettes. What’s more, smoking can harm kids well before they reach adulthood by causing a number 2 of immediate, sometimes irreversible, health risks and problems. Right now, about one in five high 3 4 school students smoke, while experimentation can start as early as fourth grade. Each day, about 4,000 kids in the United States try their first cigarette and an additional 1,000 kids under 18 years of age become new regular, daily smokers. That’s nearly 400,000 new underage daily smokers in this country 5 each year – and roughly one-third of them will eventually die prematurely from smoking-caused disease. 6
Fortunately, parents can take a number of effective actions to protect their kids from starting to smoke or becoming another one of the tobacco industry’s addicted customers and victims. Being good parents and role models is important, but it takes much more to prevent kids from smoking. Parents must also work against pro-smoking influences outside the home, including efforts to ensure that schools are doing their best to prevent and reduce youth smoking and to reduce cigarette-company marketing that reaches and influences kids. The U.S. cigarette companies spend more than $28 million per day marketing their 7 products, and they rely on youth smokers to replace their adult customers who quit or die. As one 8 cigarette company executive put it, “the base of our business is the high school student.” Parents as Anti-Smoking Role Models (Whether They Smoke or Not) What parents say, how they act, and the values they communicate through their words and deeds has an enormous influence on children; and that applies to tobacco use, as well. Studies have found that parental actions, attitudes, and opinions about smoking have a great deal of influence on whether or not 9 kids smoke. A recent study found that parental antismoking actions such as having restrictions about smoking in the home in place or sitting in non-smoking sections of restaurants are associated with 10 reductions in children’s smoking. Specifically, parents can take the following actions to help ensure that their children remain (or become) tobacco-free: • If you don’t smoke, don’t start! If you do smoke, quit! Research shows that children who have a 11 parent who smokes are more likely to smoke and to be heavier smokers at young ages. When parents quit smoking, their children become less likely to start smoking and more likely to quit if they 12 already smoke. If you smoke, share your struggles to quit with your children. Kids greatly underestimate how 13 difficult it is to quit smoking. Showing how hard it is to quit (and making sure quitting doesn’t look 14 easy) can help eliminate this misperception. Continuing to try to quit, despite the difficulties, also sends a strong anti-smoking message. Maintain a smoke-free home. A smoke-free home makes children less likely to smoke, even if their 15 parents smoke. By not allowing anyone to smoke in their homes, parents not only make smoking less convenient for their kids but also make a powerful statement that they believe smoking is undesirable. *
For help quitting, go to http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/facts_issues/more_resources/quitting.
1400 I Street NW - Suite 1200 - Washington, DC 20005 Phone (202) 296-5469 · Fax (202) 296-5427 · www.tobaccofreekids.org
How Parents Can Protect Their Kids From Becoming Addicted Smokers / 2
Tell your kids that you don’t want them to smoke and will be disappointed if they do....