Smoking Prevention – You Shouldn’t Count on Your Doctor for This

Do you want your teenage son or daughter to start smoking?   Of course not!

Well, if that’s the case, don’t depend on your family physician to discourage your teen from smoking.  New research shows that less than one-third of teenagers’ doctors have spoken to them about tobacco use.

Surprised?  So were we.Want to keep your teen smoke free?  You're probably not getting help from their doctor!

The Teen Tobacco Study

Gillian L. Schauer, author of the study and contractor to the Office on Smoking and Health of the CDC, shares the sentiment as well. “Given that tobacco is still the number one preventable cause of death and disease in the U.S., it is surprising that more clinicians are not intervening with adolescent patients to help them avoid or quit tobacco.”  Most current smokers start as teenagers or young adults.  How many new smokers each year?  A startlingly large number:  400,000 Americans under the age of 18.

In this study, data was analyzed from a 2011 national survey of over 18,000 students.  Here’s what the survey discovered:

  • 11% of the students currently smoke cigarettes.
  • 17% were former smokers.
  • 72% of the students had never smoked.
  • 31% of the students (who had been to the doctor in the past year) had been advised by their doctor to avoid tobacco.

Why Is it so Important to Warn Children of Tobacco Dangers?

Young people often underestimate the power that nicotine has to create dependency and addiction, and they really need the help to see this. Just look at this sad statistic:  More than 6.6 million young people who currently use tobacco did not receive advice from their doctor to avoid or quit tobacco use.

Still, Schauer notes that staff at most doctor’s offices will ask about tobacco use while collecting vital signs.  If the answer is yes, the clinician may provide a strong warning message.

The Power to Change Lives

On a positive note, parents and guardians can have a major impact on whether or not teens pick up the terrible habit of smoking.  What are some ways you can prevent your son or daughter from picking up the habit?

  • When talking to your son or daughter about smoking, do so without threats, shame, or fear of punishment.
  • Be sure to make this more than a one-time conversation.  No matter their age, start talking now, and bring the subject up again when you feel it can be worked into conversation.
  • As you watch entertainment with your kids, point out to them the differences between reality and media images when it comes to smoking.
  • Be proactive!  Find activities for kids that prohibit smoking, like sports.
  • Prepare for peer pressure.  Let your kids practice what they will say when offered a cigarette.
  • Empower your children to walk away from any friend who will not respect their reasons for not smoking.
  • Finally, and simply:  Make firm rules that keep smoking and chewing tobacco out of your house.  Tell them why: When you smoke, you smell bad, look bad, and feel bad, you ruin the health of those around you.

If you smoke, know that your kids will follow your example more than your words.  Now is the time to quit.

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