12 July 2006

Teenagers may think smoking is cool

It is a shocking fact that around 80 per cent per cent of smokers in the UK had their first cigarette before the age of 16. And half of the 16-year-olds who currently smoke will eventually die because of their habit. Therefore, if your child is a smoker, you just cannot afford to ignore it – and if you want to help them quit, there is no better time.

They might think it has cool now, but in years to come they face a real risk of heart disease, lung cancer, amputation and other serious health problems. Most teenagers see it as an expression of freedom and of being grown up, if you ask them if they will still be smoking at 30, the majority will say no. But the chances are, they will. Smoking is addictive, and it is hard to stop. So what can parents do?

Sit down and talk things through with your teenager. The worst thing is to nag teenagers, at that age, telling them not to do something is almost an encouragement to do it. Of course, they need to know the health risks, but young people often respond better when you explain what smoking will do to their image and looks. A young girl will not relish the idea of looking like a 40-year-old at 30. A boy will not welcome the news that he may become impotent.

It helps to talk about money too – smoking 10 cigarettes a day costs about £820 a year. But however worried you are, do not come on all heavy-handed. You might find they already regret smoking, and want to give up. As with anyone trying to give up smoking, the key is to be supportive rather than harassing. Moreover, parents need to look at their own behavior too – if you smoke, it is a huge factor in encouraging your kids to pick up the habit.

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