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Teen Smoking: What Parents Need to Know

Did you know that nearly 25% of high school students have used some type of tobacco product in the last month? Or that 1 out of every 3 of those teens will die of a smoke-related disease? That means approximately 1 out of every 13 of today’s teens will die prematurely. For what? To look cool? To cope with stress? It’s a sobering fact that smoking and secondhand smoke kill more people each year than alcohol, drugs, car crashes, AIDS, murders, fires and suicides combined. Unfortunately, many teens are unaware of addiction and the life-altering effects just one cigarette can have. To ensure your teen isn’t a statistic, it is important for you to educate yourself on the dangers of teen smoking and how to help your teen live a tobacco-free life.

What Are the Dangers of Teen Smoking?

Cigarettes contain over 4,000 chemicals and 2,000 poisons, including toxins found in rat poison, battery acid, rocket fuel and more; it is no surprise that on average smokers die 14 years earlier than nonsmokers. Due to this repulsive chemical cocktail, smoking harms nearly every organ in the body. To top it off, teens are much more susceptible to addiction due to their young, undeveloped bodies. Smoking just one or two cigarettes puts them at risk for nicotine addiction, and the effects can show up almost instantaneously. Puffing on a seemingly harmless piece of paper can lead to chronic lung disease, coronary heart disease, stroke or cancer.

Other risks of teen smoking include:

  • Reduced lung growth and functionality
  • Increased cough, wheezing and phlegm
  • Decreased physical fitness
  • Increased respiratory infections
  • Early cardiovascular damage

Why Is Smoking So Prevalent Among Teens?

The way mass media portrays smoking as a social “norm” has taught teens that not only is it acceptable to smoke, it is rewarded with popularity and appeal. The high accessibility and reasonably low price point of cigarettes make them an attractive option to teens who are looking to experiment or impress. There are several other reasons why teens decide to pick up smoking. Many times they smoke to relieve the symptoms of unchecked mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety or stress. A lack of social skills to say “no” and exposure to smoking in the home also significantly increase their risks.

How Can I Help My Teen?

It is important to talk to your teen about smoking, whether they’ve tried it or not. Education and understanding are the strongest tools you can provide them with. Even if you smoke, talk to them about the struggles you face on an everyday basis. Tell them how many times you’ve tried to quit and failed. Tell them how it has affected your health. Have an open and honest conversation with them, and they will listen. Be direct. Ask them if they smoke or if they ever would. Then listen. Explain to them that most teenagers don’t smoke and that it isn’t a norm and it doesn’t make them look cool. List out the reasons why most people don’t smoke: it’s expensive, it makes your breath stink, it gives you wrinkles, etc. The most important thing you can do as a parent is to provide your teen with the skills and confidence to say “no”. Some other ways you can help your teen live a tobacco-free life are:

  • Maintain a smoke-free home
  • Tell your teen that you’ll be disappointed if they smoke
  • Make sure they have the facts they need
  • Stress the immediate health effects
  • Describe how smoking affects their physical appearance

Give us a call at 877-466-0620 to learn more about the dangers of teen smoking and how we can help.