Smoking is probably one of the easiest habits for kids to pick up. With tobacco so readily available, parents have to be on their guard practically all the time. It’s also easy for the habit to develop, either because of peer pressure or because smoking is seen as grown up, exciting or forbidden behaviour.
In the UK alone, estimates suggest that over 200,000 children smoke or start smoking in any one year. Two thirds of adult smokers have confirmed that they actually started smoking before they were 18 years’ old. Better education and less easy access to cigarettes has helped bring the numbers down but the statistics are still troubling.
Children who have parents who smoke are almost twice as likely to take up cigarettes themselves and may have a greater susceptibility for going onto abuse of other kinds of drugs, including alcohol. The health effects of smoking are well documented but can have greater harmful effects on children who are still developing, particularly the lungs.
Passive Smoking and Kids
Cigarette smoking is harmful but so is passive or second hand smoking.
What to Do if Your Kid Starts Smoking
Most experts suggest that parents broach the subject of smoking early on, before the behaviour starts, so that kids are aware of the health issues and damage that can be done by smoking. In the USA, nearly 3,500 children try smoking every day and it’s estimated that, of these, around a quarter will become regular smokers. There’s great value, therefore, in starting that education as early as possible.
While they may want to look cool or do it because one of their friends is, the truth is our kids will often try things we don’t approve of. Smoking is probably top of the list when it comes to this type of behaviour.
Smoking is easy to detect as you can smell it on clothes, in the hair and on the breath. If you do notice this then it’s best to raise the issue as quickly as possible and make sure that your kid knows about the dangers of smoking.
Those who start smoking younger are more susceptible to lung damage, developing bowel cancer and, for women, developing cervical cancer. Even in the early stages of addiction it can cause breathing problems, coughing and an increased level of lethargy.
Most kids don’t realise how addictive smoking is and probably won’t admit that they are hooked after just a few cigarettes. There are plenty of resources available that can show the effect of smoking and you can find some pretty graphic pictures online. If you smoke yourself, it can be doubly difficult for you to condone their behaviour but it also gives you a unique perspective. It might also be a good opportunity for you to give up.
One of the key issues to uncover is why your child has started smoking. This generally doesn’t work if you are moralistic, angry or judgemental and a caring, understanding approach has a better chance of success. Be prepared to work at it as your child might be valuing their independence and resent your interference. Saying no to smoking is also important. You might not think your kid is taking notice but according to research, teenagers who have parents who set very strict smoking restrictions are less likely to take up the habit than those who don’t.