05 September 2006

Help your children

You should make tobacco prevention a priority in the life of your child. While many may think of tobacco use as a simple ceremony of passage, it is the first step in a chain of decisions that can negatively affect your child's life, as well as the livelihood of your entire family. More than a third of all kids who ever try smoking a cigarette become regular, daily smokers before leaving high school. In fact, the addiction rate for smoking (the percentage of experimenters who ultimately become habitual users) is higher than the addiction rates for marijuana, alcohol or cocaine.

As a parent, there are a number of things you can do to help your children avoid tobacco use:

- Maintain a smoke-free home. A smoke-free home makes children less likely to smoke, even if their parents do. There are no safe levels of tobacco exposure. Also most smoking parents want the best health outcomes for the children, but if they are smoking at home it becomes a case of, "Do as I say, not as I do". Children of smokers face elevated risk for asthma and bronchitis, a risk that often stays with them even after they leave the smoking environment.

- Ask your children's principal, teachers and coaches to ban smoking on all public school campuses and at school-sponsored events.

- If you smoke, quit! Share your struggles with your child. Research shows that children who have a parent who smokes are more likely to smoke and to be heavier smokers at young ages. Also those children have worse behavior problems than those from non-smoking homes. It is very important for smoking parents to realize that it is not just their health, that they must pay attention to the health of their children.

- Do not portray smoking as an adult activity. Children want to be grown up, and are attracted to activities that make them feel independent and mature. Telling children that smoking is an activity that should wait until adulthood sends a bad message that it is OK to smoke.

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