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Kids and Smoking: Just Say Know

Know the facts, that is!

Talking to your children about smoking — and modeling non-smoking behavior — are key factors in preventing your children from starting smoking. But if the thought of bringing up the subject of smoking with your children has you in a haze, here are some pointers, based on research by Dr. Pamela I. Clark of Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine:

 Don't assume kids will learn to be smoke-free at school — they may be educated about the health risks, but children decide whether to smoke for emotional reasons.

 Let them know how you feel about smoking. Kids are more comfortable knowing that there are boundaries, and they can't know the rules unless you tell them.

 Kids do listen. They may feel a need to rebel at first, but they will value the message — especially coming from you.

 Make an emotional appeal. Telling them how hurt or disappointed you would be by their smoking has more impact than reasoning with them about the health dangers.

 Know that peer pressure is often used as an excuse for smoking. It may provide an opportunity to start, but kids continue to smoke for individual reasons.

 Be a good role model. If you do smoke, explain that you know it's a bad habit and ask them to help you stop.

 Limit their ability to buy cigarettes. If necessary, cut all sources of income so they can't buy tobacco. This may mean fixing a lunch instead of giving them lunch money.

 Have extended family support to keep kids smoke-free. Often older brothers or sisters or other relatives introduce them to smoking.

 Don't believe that smoking is safer than "something else" — most kids are at real and greater risk from smoking than from other dangers. And, studies have found that cigarette smoking often leads to experimentation with other "harder" drugs.

 It's never too late to intervene. Kids are flexible; they can change for the right reasons, and you can make a difference.

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