Tobacco (Smoking) or Alcohol Addiction
Tobacco (Smoking) or Alcohol Addiction are perhaps the two most significant drug addictions in children and adolescents. Smoking and alcohol, though “legal”, are often considered “gateway” drugs; both can lead to other illegal drug usage, such as marijuana and other illegal drugs. Research indicates that children and adolescents who smoke or drink alcohol are many times more likely to use marijuana than those who abstain. In addition, the younger the age the smoking or drinking begins, the greater the risk of a serious health problem. Cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption are also related to a higher risk of engaging in dangerous behaviors.
Smoking (Tobacco) in children and teens has decreased since the 1990s. However, the rates of cigarette smoking among high school juniors and seniors are still higher than those of adults. Almost all long-term smokers start when they are young: 90% by age 18 and 99% by age 26. The younger the smoking begins, the more likely it is that the child or teen will smoke as an adult, and the harder it will be for them to quit.
Other forms of tobacco favored by teens include clove cigarettes (kreteks), flavored cigarettes, (bidis), cigars, and hookahs (contrary to the claim that hookahs are a safe alternative, it’s not)
Cigarette smoking puts children and teens at risk of serious medical problems, including respiratory ailments, gum disease, poor lung growth and overall poorer physical health and fitness.
Smoking cigarettes has also been linked to harmful behaviors such alcohol and substance abuse, aggressive behavior, carrying weapons, attempted suicide, depression and hi-risk sexual behaviors. Children of parents who smoke are much more likely to smoke themselves.
What Can parents do to Prevent Cigarette Smoking in their Children and Teens?
One of the most important things that parents can do is to keep their children from starting to smoke. Parents need to talk with their children about the harmful effects of smoking. Let them know about the serious health problems that can arise from smoking, such as cardiac, lung, gum, respiratory or other medical illness. Perhaps there is a loved in the family who unfortunately is ill or who died of a cigarette related disease, such as lung cancer. Talk to your children and teens about this sad event in relation to the negative effects of cigarette smoking.
Parents can also mention what it can do to the way the teen looks and smells: smoking makes hair and clothes stink, causes bad breath, and stains teeth and fingernails.
Even a parent who smokes can make a difference. Try to never use tobacco in front of your children, and don’t leave it where they can easily get to it. Talk about ways to say “no” to tobacco use, even if the child/teen has a friend who is already smoking.
If the parent discovers that the child is already using tobacco, try to avoid threats and ultimatums. Find out why your child is smoking or using other forms of tobacco. Is smoking an attention seeking device or a way to fit in with peers? Show an interest in understanding your child/teens motivation for smoking and find ways to help them quit. If they are trying to stop, be supportive and offer some tips, such as deep breathing, drinking water, talking about the craving and looking for alternative, healthy activities.
Helping a child/teen to quit tobacco use is one of the best parenting activities a parent can do for their child. And if you are a smoker, the second best thing may be quitting yourself.
Reproduced from OHEL, https://www.ohelfamily.org/?q=mental_health/addiction_children_and_adolescents.