Keep Teens from Lighting Up

Smoking isn’t as “cool” among teens as it used to be. Over the past four decades, the smoking rate among high school seniors has fallen 23 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Adolescent Health.

Yet, one in 20 high school students still smokes daily. What will never change: the fact that smoking isn’t healthy, especially for teens. Research shows that the nicotine in cigarettes is more addictive to teens and can mess with the brain’s hardwiring, leading to mood disorders. Teens who use tobacco are also more likely to use illegal drugs and alcohol, compared to those who don’t, and engage in risky sexual behavior. Even just trying it can be risky. A study in Nicotine & Tobacco Research found that two-thirds of people who try one cigarette become daily smokers.

You have more influence over your teen than you may think. Here’s how to keep your teen from trying cigarettes.

Be a quitter. If you’re among the 37.8 million Americans who smoke, quit. Parents who smoke are more likely to have teens who smoke. While you’re trying to quit, keep your home smoke-free and don’t use tobacco around your teen.

Fend off friends. Peer pressure is powerful. If your teen’s friends smoke, talk with your teen about ways to say no to tobacco, such as: “No, thanks. My coach would be so angry if I smoked.”

Talk it up. Start casual conversations about the dangers of smoking with your teen. According to the American Cancer Society, teens who have these chats with their parents are about half as likely to smoke as those who don’t.

For starters, you might say: “Do a lot of people in your school smoke?” As the discussion picks up, talk about the health dangers of smoking—that it damages the heart and lungs and causes cancer. And appeal to your teen’s vanity. Mention that cigarette smoke causes bad breath, makes your hair and clothes stink, and stains your teeth and nails.

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