|Protecting Your Children From Tobacco Use|
Protecting Your Children From Tobacco Use
Take action today to help protect your children from the harms caused by tobacco use. Free resources are available to help you and your children live fuller, healthier lives.
Helping Your Kids Stay Tobacco-Free
As the new school year approaches, parents and caregivers start thinking about preparing their children for the upcoming year. For parents of middle schoolers and teens, how to keep kids from using tobacco products might not seem as serious as other issues. In fact, some parents may feel that smoking is a “rite of passage” and that kids who start will outgrow the behavior as they get older. However, once teens start using tobacco, they can quickly become addicted, and that addiction can lead to a lifetime of serious health problems. The best way for parents to protect their children from tobacco-related health problems (including asthma, heart disease, cancer, and lung damage) is to prevent tobacco use altogether.
Tobacco Products Are Designed for Addiction
The design and contents of tobacco products make them extremely addictive. Products currently on the market include cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco (snuff, chewing tobacco, and dissolvable products). Today’s tobacco products deliver more nicotine and deliver it quicker than ever before. Nicotine is the highly addictive drug in tobacco that keeps people using it, even when they want to quit. Like heroin and cocaine, nicotine changes the way the brain works—creating feelings of pleasure or satisfaction—and causing users to crave repeated doses of nicotine. Youth are especially sensitive to nicotine and can feel dependent earlier than adults. Because of their addiction, about three out of four teen smokers end up smoking into adulthood, even if they intend to quit after a few years.
Many tobacco products are flavored to make them more attractive to new users. While flavored cigarettes are now prohibited, tobacco companies still put fruit and candy flavors in many of their cigarette-sized cigars and in a variety of smokeless products. All of these products can cause serious health problems and lead to nicotine addiction and future smoking. And tobacco companies are still using techniques to make cigarettes taste less harsh—especially brands that most young people use when they start smoking.
The 2012 Surgeon General’s report (Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults—A Report of the Surgeon General) says that young people sometimes use smokeless tobacco products in places where cigarettes are banned, such as schools. Snus (dry snuff in a pouch) and dissolvable smokeless products in particular provide a way for smokers to maintain their addiction to nicotine, even when they can’t smoke. In fact, most young people who use these smokeless products also smoke cigarettes. These products are dangerous because they can introduce kids to nicotine, putting them at risk for nicotine addiction.
The following sections summarize other key messages from the 2012 Surgeon General’s report. Also provided are resources to help prevent youth from using tobacco or being exposed to secondhand smoke as well as helpful quit resources.
Tobacco Products Cause Serious Harm, Even to Young People
Most people know that tobacco use can lead to disease and death in long-term, older smokers, but many are surprised to learn how early the negative impacts of tobacco use can occur. It’s important that parents know how early smoking can lead to nicotine addiction, early heart disease, and lung damage.
Why Do Youth Use Tobacco?
The reasons young people begin to use tobacco include:
Who Is at Greatest Risk?
Young people are more likely to use tobacco if they:
What Your Community Can Do to Help Prevent Youth Tobacco Use
Following are some state and national policies proven to work best:
How You Can Help Your Children Stay Tobacco-Free
With so many high-risk activities available in today’s culture, parenting adolescents can sometimes feel overwhelming. However, the risks associated with smoking—and with other tobacco use that often leads to smoking—are just as overwhelming. Despite decades of health warnings, 46 million Americans still smoke cigarettes today. More than 70% of them want to quit, but nicotine addiction is so powerful, quitting is very difficult and many smokers just give up trying. Nearly half a million die from smoking every year—an average of 13 years earlier than their peers who don’t smoke—and for every smoker who dies, 20 more live with at least one serious chronic disease caused by smoking. More than 3.6 million middle school and high school students smoke cigarettes; one out of three teen smokers will ultimately die from a tobacco-related disease. That is not a future parents want for their children. The key is prevention, because nearly 90% of smokers start smoking before they’re 18 and almost no one starts after age 25. To help keep your children from starting to use tobacco, take these important steps:
For more information about how to prevent youth from tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, consult the following:
For more information on the health consequences of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke, consult the following:
Support to Quit