5 November 2009 11:30 AM

Kids Smoking

by Dr. Rick

Incredibly, a parent recently asked me, without any apparent embarrassment, at what age a teenager should be allowed to smoke.  It’s a difficult question with an easy answer.




How many years have we heard the Surgeon General tell us about the hazards of smoking?  (Since 1964, actually.)  Is there anyone alive who doesn’t know the truth about smoking?  That it causes disease, that smoke is full of dangerous and disgusting things, that the habit is expensive, that it turns teeth yellow, skin leathery, and breath foul?  That even second-hand smoke is dangerous?  Who are these people who still smoke anyway?  Especially the fools who smoke around their babies and children?  And why would a young person want to join such a creepy club?


But some do, we all know that.  There are many reasons – peer pressure, wrong-headed role models, rebellion, a feeling of youthful invincibility among them – but it’s still up to us parents, teachers, and significant adults in kids’ lives to do everything we can to keep them from slow death.


Arguments that smoking is legal and that adults should be free to do what they want are, you’ll pardon the expression, smokescreens.  Not to mention dumb.


Here are some thoughts about how to keep your beloved children from smoking.

  1. Be motivated by love.  You love your children, and you don’t want them to breathe poison.  You wouldn’t allow them to drink poison, what makes them think you’d allow them to inhale it?  You want them to be healthy, to grow to be strong, to have habits and attitudes that bless them with long, happy lives free from coughing fits and battles for breath.

  2. Talk.  Kids are naturally curious, so it’s always a good idea to talk with them about values, beliefs, and issues important to you.  Listen carefully and respectfully. They can detect a sermon a mile away, so don’t give a sermon, live a sermon.  If you don’t want your kids to smoke, then you don’t smoke.  I know that’s easier said than done – smoking is a serious addiction, very difficult to break – but remember, you’re motivated by love.  If you’ve broken the habit, tell your kids why.  If you’re trying to quit now, tell them how difficult it is.  If you’ve never started despite temptations, tell them how you dealt with it. 

  3. Have rules.  You may not be able to monitor your kids when they’re away from home, but you can have strict rules about not smoking in your home.  Ever.  Anyone.  Along with rules come rewards and consequences.  With your kids, come up with appropriate results of good and bad behavior.

  4. Stay calm.  Kids love when their behavior can set us off.  Don’t let that happen.  You’re the adult.  If you have to remove yourself from their vicinity while you calm down, tell them you’ll talk about this later.  Say firmly, “Don’t leave until I come back.  We have some talking to do.”

  5. Be positive.  Let your kids see that your love for them, your concern for their safety, and your desire for them to be healthy are at the heart of your words and actions.  Nothing can change that.  If this issue is going to take a while to settle, let them see you’re in for the long haul, a happy warrior unwilling to give up on them.  They’ll get the message.

What are your experiences with keeping kids from starting smoking?  We’d love to hear about them here at the Dr. Rick Blog.  Share your experiences with us, won’t you, by clicking on the “Comments” button below.




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