Every day, nearly 6,000 teens and pre-teens try cigarettes for the first time, according to the American Lung Association (ALA). A third of these first-timers will end up becoming smokers.
Most parents don't expect their children to smoke. But children and teens are inundated with images in popular culture that glamorize tobacco. Tobacco advertisements promote the idea of independence and sexual attraction, themes that resonate among youth.
Although many adults have quit smoking because of the health risks associated with tobacco, many kids still haven't gotten the message. If kids keep smoking at the current rate, more than 6 million youths will end up dying prematurely from smoking-related disease, the ALA says. Even kids who do get the message find it hard to quit smoking.
Fighting the temptation
Quitting cigarettes or resisting the urge to start isn't easy. But besides school and community prevention programs that help kids battle pressures to begin smoking, parents have some forceful weapons on their side. There are clever words and compelling images available from these sources:
American Lung Association (ALA). The ALA offers a program to help teens stop smoking called, N-O-T or Not on Tobacco.
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The NIDA offers these Web pages called "Mind Over Matter," about the addictive properties of nicotine.
Setting a good example
Here are some tips from the CDC for parents who would like to stop their children from smoking:
Be a good role model. Don't use tobacco, and don't let others use it in your home. If you smoke, share information with your kids about how much it costs, and tell them how difficult it is to stop.
Give your children clear messages about the risks of tobacco use. Teach them to think critically about commercials, TV shows and movies that glamorize smoking.