We as parents do everything in our power to give our children a safe, healthy life. We are careful when shopping for food and vehicles. Unfortunately, there are dangers that our children will encounter regardless of how protective we are. One of the earliest dangers our children will face is tobacco. According to facts compiled by the CDC, nearly 9 out of 10 adults tried smoking before they were 18. In their 2016 data on middle schoolers, 2 out of every 100 had already reported having smoked.
Warning Signs of Teen Smoking
The teenage years can be a very volatile time for your child. There is advertising expressing the harmful nature of tobacco, so when a teen takes up smoking, their first instinct is to hide it. If you suspect your teen of smoking but you wish to prevent a confrontation, there are warning signs that you can look for that will let you know if your suspicions have merit.
Some of the signs that your teen is smoking are:
- Smoke smell – When washing your teen’s laundry, you might catch the stale smell of cigarette smoke. Cigarette smoke smell will cling to their hair as well.
- Possession of a lighter – They’re such small objects that are easy to miss, but if you manage to notice your teen acquiring a lot of lighters or matches, this is a big red flag.
- Burn holes – Look for burn holes in your teen’s clothing, on the upholstery in their car, on their backpack, or even on their bed sheets.
- Open windows in the bedroom – If it’s unseasonably cold or warm outside, but your teen still likes to have their window open constantly, this could be a sign that they’re smoking in their room. Check outside beneath their window for cigarette butts.
- Excuses to go outside – Your teen might decide to become an outside smoker to prevent detection. Keep a mental note of how often they go outside for quick 15-minute breaks for no apparent reason.
Teenagers are very impressionable. There is a myriad of reasons why a teenager picks up smoking. Indeed, most of them try their first cigarette not expecting it to become a long term habit. They believe they can try it once and walk away from it, greatly underestimating how addictive tobacco is.
Some common causes for teenage smoking are:
- Peer pressure – Our teen’s friends are with them as much as we are, if not more. As stated by the CDC, almost all adult smokers tried their first cigarette before age 18. This means that our teens will most likely receive their first cigarette from a friend.
Treatments for Teenage Smoking
- Weight loss – Looks are critical to a young teen. Teenage girls are more likely to use cigarettes to help shed a few pounds. The cigarette will help curb their cravings and keep their mind off of food.
- No immediate health consequences – Teens hear about the health consequences of smoking, but those illnesses aren’t immediate. Teenagers can feel invincible, and the cigarettes seem harmless at the time.
- Advertising – TV shows, movies, and magazines like to show the hero or the stud smoking on a cigarette as a status symbol of just how tough and sexy they are. Teenage minds are very impressionable. They will mimic others doing what they view as cool or trendy to get the same recognition.
The treatments for a teenager smoking are the same as for an adult. The most common treatments on the market today are nicotine patches, nicotine gum, support from family and friends, lifestyle changes, and encouragement. There are some preventative measures you, as a parent, can take to try to stop your child from trying that first cigarette.
1. Speak with your child at a young age about smoking. Enforce the dangers of it and encourage them to come to you with any questions or concerns.
2. Prevent as much exposure to secondhand smoke as possible. Don’t allow smoking in your house.
3. Closely monitor your child and express strong disapproval of any tobacco use.
While smoking in teens is down from the 1990s, it is still an uncomfortably high number at 8% of high school students admitting to smoking. The first line of prevention and protection begins at home. If you are a concerned parent or are looking for help with a teen that smokes, help can be found at Centered Health.