Sue Scheff: Teen Smoking on the Decrease


Are we finally seeing peer pressure in a positive direction? A new government survey finds that more kids are smoking marijuana, abusing prescription drugs and using smokeless tobacco than a decade ago. But there is one area of abuse that is going down dramatically- cigarettes.

There can be many factors for this, and it would be nice to know if kids are just telling kids that smoking is not cool. Other reasons could be the accessibility has become more difficult. Either way, it is a good news that smoking cigarettes among kids are decreasing.

Here is a recent article that outlines tips for parents and more indepth look at this new trend.

Fewer Kids Smoking

Source: Connect with Kids

“Maybe because their friends are telling them not to smoke. Maybe its peer pressure in a good way.”

– Caroline, 17 years old

A new government survey finds that more kids are smoking marijuana, abusing prescription drugs and using smokeless tobacco than a decade ago. But there is one area of abuse that is going down dramatically- cigarettes.

For some kids, smoking is hip and cool. For others, like 17-year-old Caroline, “I hate smoking. I think it stinks. I don’t like yellow teeth and I don’t like bad breath.”

Fewer teens, in fact, are picking up the habit. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the number of 12th graders who smoke cigarettes has dropped nearly 50 percent in the last decade.

What’s working?

“They can’t get it. That’s why they are not smoking,” says 15-year old Penina. “I think the stores are stricter now because they ask for ID and if you don’t have ID you can’t get it.”

Seventeen-year old Jamila says it’s more than that. “People get the hint with all the ads out and all the stuff going around saying how bad it is.”

“Maybe because their friends are telling them not to smoke,” Caroline says. “Maybe it’s peer pressure in a good way.”

Experts cite higher prices, hard hitting media ads, stricter limits on public smoking and changing attitudes about smoking. “It’s not the adults telling youth what to do that’s working,” says Dr. Terry Pechacek, with the Centers for Disease Control’s Office on Smoking and Health. “It’s youth working with youth and changing the way that they act in their social settings.”

But, Dr. Pechacek says, parents still need to send their kids those same messages at home. “We’re asking them to take the time to talk to your children about these issues in a constructive, straight-forward fashion. Not in an authoritative don’t-do-it type message, but rather, ‘I care about you. I would like to discuss the pressures that you’re under.’”

He says the research is clear: parents who make their views clear and listen as well as teach, are far more likely to have kids who have kids who don’t smoke.

Research shows that a vast majority of smokers began when they were children or teenagers. While recent legislation has helped reduce smoking, it still remains an important health concern. Consider the following statistics from the U.S. Surgeon General:

Approximately 80 percent of adult smokers started smoking before the age of 18.
More than 5 million children living today will die prematurely because of a decision they make as adolescents – the decision to smoke cigarettes.
Nearly all first uses of tobacco occur before high school graduation.
Most young people who smoke are addicted to nicotine and report that they want to quit but are unable to do so.
Tobacco is often the first drug used by young people who use alcohol and illegal drugs.
Among young people, those with poorer grades and lower self-image are most likely to begin using tobacco.
Young people who come from low-income families and have fewer than two adults living in their household are especially at risk for becoming smokers.

Tips for Parents

Encourage your child to join an anti-smoking group and support him/her in kicking the habit. If you are currently a smoker, you should also try to stop. Children look to their parents for support and strength; taking the anti-smoking journey alongside your child can be a huge benefit. In addition to attending the meetings, The Foundation for a Smoke-Free America offers these suggestions:

Develop deep-breathing techniques. Every time you want a cigarette, do the following three times: Inhale the deepest breath of air you can and then, very slowly, exhale. Purse your lips so that the air must come out slowly. As you exhale, close your eyes, and let your chin gradually drop to your chest. Visualize all the tension leaving your body, slowly draining out of your fingers and toes — just flowing on out. This technique will be your greatest weapon during the strong cravings smokers feel during the first few days of quitting.
During the first week, drink lots of water and healthy fluids to flush out the nicotine and other toxins from your body.

Remember that the urge to smoke only lasts a few minutes, and then it will pass. The urges gradually become further and further apart as the days go by.

Do your very best to stay away from alcohol, sugar and coffee the first week (or longer) as these tend to stimulate the desire for a cigarette. Also, avoid fatty foods, as your metabolism may slow down a bit without the nicotine, and you may gain weight even if you eat the same amount as before quitting. Discipline regarding your diet is extra important now.

Nibble on low calorie foods like celery, apples and carrots. Chew gum or suck on cinnamon sticks.
Stretch out your meals. Eat slowly and pause between bites.

After dinner, instead of a cigarette, treat yourself to a cup of mint tea or a peppermint candy. Keep in mind, however, that in one study, while 25 percent of quitters found that an oral substitute was helpful, another 25 percent didn’t like the idea at all – they wanted a clean break with cigarettes. Find what works for you.

Go to a gym, exercise, and/or sit in the steam of a hot shower. Change your normal routine – take a walk or even jog around the block or in a local park. Get a massage. Pamper yourself.

Ask for support from coworkers, friends and family members. Ask for their tolerance. Let them know you’re quitting, and that you might be edgy or grumpy for a few days. If you don’t ask for support, you certainly won’t get any. If you do, you’ll be surprised how much it can help.

Ask friends and family members not to smoke in your presence. Don’t be afraid to ask. This is more important than you may realize.

On your “quit day,” remove all ashtrays and destroy all your cigarettes, so you have nothing to smoke.
Write down ten good things about being a nonsmoker and ten bad things about smoking.
Don’t pretend smoking wasn’t enjoyable. Quitting smoking can be like losing a good friend – and its okay to grieve the loss. Feel that grief.

Several times a day, quietly repeat to yourself the affirmation, “I am a nonsmoker.” Many quitters see themselves as smokers who are just not smoking for the moment. They have a self-image as smokers who still want a cigarette. Silently repeating the affirmation “I am a nonsmoker” will help you change your view of yourself. Even if it seems silly to you, this is actually useful.

Here is perhaps the most valuable information among these points: During the period that begins a few weeks after quitting, the urge to smoke will subside considerably. However, it’s vital to understand that from time to time, you will still be suddenly overwhelmed with a desire for “just one cigarette.” This will happen unexpectedly, during moments of stress, whether negative stress or positive (at a party, or on vacation). Be prepared to resist this unexpected urge, because succumbing to that “one cigarette” will lead you directly back to smoking. Remember the following secret: during these surprise attacks, do your deep breathing and hold on for five minutes; the urge will pass.

Do not try to go it alone. Get help, and plenty of it.

References
American Cancer Society
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Foundation for a Smoke-Free America
Nicotine Anonymous

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