Why do kids and teens start smoking?

Why do kids and teens start smoking?

According to the American Lung Association, almost 70% of adult smokers began smoking before they turned 18 – that’s an awful lot kids and teens who start smoking. We know why people get addicted to cigarettes – nicotine is an addictive drug. But why do kids start to smoke in the first place? Actually, the reasons are pretty simple according young smokers, who often start around the age of 11-years-old and are addicted by age 14. These reasons are consistently given, year after year in the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System maintained by the CDC.

Parental modeling is one of the top reasons why kids begin to smoke. This is especially true for younger kids who would otherwise find it hard to gain access to cigarettes. The same type of modeling occurs if an older sibling smokes. Kids watch and learn from their parents. If you are a smoker and you do not want your child to smoke find a program to help you quit.

Tobacco companies make it seem like smoking is cool and will target teenagers with their advertising. In recent years they’ve been called out on this, but not as much as they should be. There are still advertising spots that make smoking look like the thing to do if you want to act grown up. Parents can help their kids and teens take apart these advertisements when they see them. For instance, if you see a billboard with good-looking people holding a cigarette, ask your teen if they think that cigarette makes that person better looking. Ask them what they think the advertiser is trying to say. Then, take apart the advertiser’s message by asking your teen if they think that they can only look grown up if they have a cigarette in their hand. This is a teachable moment and the lesson is very important.

Peer pressure is another cause of kids and teens started to smoke. Stay on top of who your child’s friends are and pay attention if you think you smell smoke on them. Do not allow your child or their friends to walk in your home smelling like smoke without an explanation. If you do smell smoke on your child or teenager, talk to them about it. Make it clear that your family values say that there is no smoking or drug use. Ask what they think about smoking to continue the conversation. Explain to them that smoking is taking a drug – nicotine – and why it is unhealthy. Keep an eye out for other warning signs.

Smoking behavior is being modeled in our youth’s culture. There are more TV shows on for the teen demographic than ever before and not all of them are the ‘afterschool special’ type. You have a lot of modeling poor behavior and the characters on these shows are not always paying any consequences for that behavior. Kids who are smoking on the shows look independent, older and cool. Of course, the shows never last long enough to show the characters getting lung cancer.

Your kids may be looking for ways to get back at you and they had the opportunity to pick up a cigarette. When we control our kids behaviors and we hold on too firmly and all they want to do is be more independent, they will find ways to lash out and use acting out behaviors. They same is true if you are too permissive, as kids will try these behaviors to try and get your attention. Parenting is a delicate balance. Talk to your kids and find some common ground. I hope these tips and examples of how kids and teens start to smoke will help you see the warning signs when or if you child picks up a cigarette. The earlier you catch it, the easier it will be for them to quit the unhealthy habit.

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