You have probably been told that tobacco is toxic (poison) to the human body. What you may not know is that it causes more health problems and early deaths than all illegal drugs combined. Cigarettes contain tar; carbon monoxide; chemicals like DDT, arsenic and formaldehyde (a gas used to preserve dead animals). Most people would never think of putting these things in their bodies on their own. Nicotine raises the risk of heart attack and stroke. Tar and carbon monoxide cause serious breathing problems. And tobacco smoke causes cancer.
- It’s expensive!
- Bad breath
- Bad smell in your clothes, hair, skin
- Yellow stains on your teeth and hands
- Cough/sore throat
- Problems breathing
- Feeling tired and out of breath
- Earlier development of wrinkles and more of them
- Risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke and a host of other health problems
- Risk of secondhand smoke giving cancer and other health problems to people around you
Tobacco is also highly addictive. The longer you use it and the more you use, the harder it is to stop. The best way to avoid this is never to start smoking, but even if you have, it’s never too late to quit. One way to quit is to substitute other activities for smoking. It can distract you from cravings and occupy your time.
Try this instead:
- Chew gum
- Call a friend
- Chew sunflower seeds
- Go to somewhere smoking isn’t allowed
- Take a walk or work out
- Pick a date to stop smoking – it will take approximately two to four weeks. Be sure to choose a time when there’s not likely to be any extra stress at school, work or home.
- Make a list of the reasons want to quit. Keep the list on hand to look at when nicotine cravings hit.
- Keep a journal for a week to track the where, when and why of the habit. Then, plan what things to do instead of smoking (see list above for ideas).
- Throw away all cigarettes and lighters. Don’t keep anything associated with smoking.
- Find something to occupy your hands, like a pen or even a carrot stick, when you feel the urge to smoke.
- Ask friends not to pressure you about smoking. Stand firm and let them know you are quitting.
- Make sure you stop on the day you committed to.
- Reward yourself when you hit milestones. For example, after a week or one month without smoking, get a new piece of clothing.
Most teens today have been taught that smoking is dangerous, and it’s important to reinforce this at home. Family is the number one indicator for how children build their values (even if it may not always seem like that’s true). Learning about how dangerous cigarettes can be from their parents is key.
Some facts your teens should hear from you:
- Addiction to cigarettes can last a lifetime and can cause emphysema, heart problems and cancer.
- Cigarettes contain many toxic substances: tar, carbon monoxide, chemicals like DDT, arsenic and formaldehyde
- Tobacco causes more health problems and early deaths than all illegal drugs combined.
- Addiction is difficult to predict, and “just trying it” can become something more very quickly.
- Even hanging out with friends while they smoke can be dangerous. Getting exposed to secondhand smoke carries the same risks as smoking.
Beyond the health risks, there are some specific problems that smoking can cause that are important to teens:
- Cigarettes are expensive and just keep getting more expensive.
- They give you bad breath.
- They make your clothes, hair and skin stink.
- Cigarettes will stain your teeth and hands.
- Smoking can give you premature wrinkles.
- Smoking can make it hard to breathe, which makes it hard to be involved in sports and other physical activities.
If your teen is already smoking and has decided they want to quit, celebrate with them! This is an important decision, and it’s good that they’ve made it. In order to keep them on track, here are some activities you can suggest to your teen:
- Make quitting a specific goal. Have them pick a date to quit that is about 2-4 weeks away and make sure this isn’t a particularly stressful time for them.
- Have them make a list of reasons they want to quit that they can carry with them. This will strengthen their resolve at difficult times.
- Have them throw away all smoking paraphernalia. It’s good if they do this on their own, instead of having you enforce it. This gives them ownership of quitting.
- Be a source of support for your child. Let them know that if they’re having a nicotine craving, they can call you to talk them through it.
- Make suggestions about things they can do when they have a craving: chew gum, call you or a friend, chew sunflower seeds or go somewhere they can’t smoke (like the movies).
- Help them to celebrate when they do quit. Consider rewarding them with something special: a trip to the movies or out to dinner.