Teens will most likely run into peer pressure to try a cigarette at some point in their lives. What can parents do to ensure their teen resists the pressure to smoke? If their teen is already smoking, how can parents get the teen to stop? Parents can arm themselves with knowledge and have intelligent conversations with their teen before they get pressured to try their first cigarette. If a teen decides to smoke, parents can talk to teens intelligently, using statistics and facts to help convince them to stop.
Teens Start Smoking at a Young Age
It's never too early to start talking to kids about smoking. Parents should have a conversation about the risks of smoking as early as 5 or 6 years old, according to The American Lung Association. Other studies cited by The Campaign For Tobacco Free Kids state 80 percent of all adult smokers begin smoking by the age of 18, and 90 percent try smoking before age 20.
Data from NIDA's Monitoring the Future Study illustrates when kids start experimenting with cigarettes.
- 15.5 percent of teens had their first cigarette by 8th grade.
- 8.1 percent of 8th graders reported having their first cigarette by 5th grade (ages 10-11).
- 4.9 percent of 8th graders smoked within a month of the study.
- 2.8 percent of 8th graders use smokeless tobacco products.
- Most kids try their first cigarette between the ages of 11 and 13.
Another study study done by the Centers for Disease Control in 2006 on middle school students' smoking rates states:
- 10.9 percent of males (grades 6-8) smoke.
- 8.2 percent of females (grades 6-8) smoke.
Teen Smoking Rates in High School
Sometimes the high school years can bring about new challenges for teens and they turn to smoking cigarettes to relieve stress, help them lose weight or change their image. According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, many teens overestimate the amount of people who smoke. A 1999-2000 survey discovered teens think that 67 percent of adults smoke and 57 percent of teens smoke, which is not true. The telephone survey done by the Campaign found less than 25 percent of adults smoke and only 17 percent of teens smoke. Parents who know the facts about how many kids actually smoke can use those facts to support the argument not to start smoking.
The Centers for Disease Control 2006 National Youth Tobacco Survey of high school students list these facts:
- 30.2 percent of males in grades 9-12 smoke.
- 21.3 percent of females in grades 9-12 smoke.
NIDA's Monitoring the Future Study (2009-2012) high school statistics show:
- 27.7 percent of 10th graders have smoked in their lifetime.
- 5 percent of 10th graders smoke daily.
- 1.5 percent of 10th graders smoke 1/2 pack + per day.
- 10.8 percent of 10th graders smoked within a month of the study.
- 39.5 percent of 12th graders have smoked in their lifetime.
- 17.1 percent of 12th graders smoked within a month of the study.
- 4 percent of 12th graders smoke 1/2 pack + per day.
- 10.3 percent of high school students had smoked at least one whole cigarette before age 13.
The study also reported on other means of smoking tobacco:
- 18.3 percent of 12th graders used a hookah.
- 19.9 percent of 12th graders smoked small cigars.
Why Teens Smoke
According to the American Cancer Society, teens start smoking for two main reasons. First, because friends and/or parents smoke, and second, because they think it's "cool" to smoke. According to the Mayo Clinic, many teens smoke for the following reasons:
- They want to be rebellious.
- Teens try to control their weight. Smoking is known to decrease the appetite and replaces stress eating.
- Teens smoke when they want to change their image or want to look "cool." They feel more secure and independent if they smoke and think they appear to be more mature.
The Centers for Disease Control lists use of tobacco by parents, guardians, friends or siblings as a main reason teens start smoking, as well as the media. Also, teens haven't develped the skills necessary to resist influences yet. Sometimes smoking is a teenager's way of feeling more in control of their life and a way to cope when they are lacking parental support or desire more parental involvement in their life. There is a comprehensive list of all Factors Associated with Youth Tobacco Use on their website.
Teens are easy targets for the tobacco industry. They are naturally at an impressionable age and more easily influenced by the media. According to a survey done by the World Health Organization, 80% of American advertising executives from top agencies saw their cigarette advertising as a means to make smoking more appealing and acceptable to children. The survey also confirmed that the goal of cigarette ads is to make teens believe smoking cigarettes will increase their athletic ability, sexual attractiveness, success, and self-confidence.
The American Journal of Preventive Medicine also reported on how advertising affects teen smoking rates:
- Children and adolescents exposed to tobacco ads are twice (or 2.2 times) more likely to smoke than children and adolescents not exposed to ads.
- One study found that teens exposed to the greatest amount of smoking in movies were 2.6 times more likely to start smoking themselves compared to teens who watched the least amount of smoking in movies.
Smoking and Health
The health risks for smoking are great. Not only can smoking cut 13 to 14 years off a person's life, but smoking has been proven to be the cause of a wide a range of diseases and other health problems, including cancer, heart disease and lung disease. In fact, the CDC notes that 90 percent of all deaths from long-term lung diseases are directly related to smoking and the risk of getting lung cancer is 23 times higher for men who smoke than for those who do not smoke.
According to recent statistics, each day, 3,900 kids will try their first cigarette. Of those, about 950 will form a daily habit of smoking. Ultimately, half of those 950 teenagers will eventually die from smoking. The World Health Organization reports:
- Teen smokers are 3 times more likely than nonsmokers to drink alcohol.
- Smokers are 8 times more likely to smoke marijuana.
- Teens who smoke are 22 times more likely to use cocaine.
Smoking is also associated with many other risky behaviors, such as fighting and unprotected sex.
According to recent reports, people who start smoking at a younger age will develop a more severe addiction to nicotine than those who start at a later age. Adolescents who have smoked at least 100 cigarettes report that they would like to quit, but can't.
The bad news is quitting smoking is one of the hardest things a person can do. It doesn't matter how long a person has been smoking. A research study done by Suzanne Colby and C. Bidwell at Brown University, discovered that teens who had only been smoking for a short period of time had just as much trouble quitting, and experienced the same psychological effects when quitting as those who had been smoking for years.
To illustrate how hard it is to quit, the National Health Inverview Survey done by the Centers for Disease Control, shows 68.8% of smokers would like to stop smoking, 52.4% of smokers tried to quit in the past year but couldn't, and only 6.2% of smokers were able to quit smoking successfully within the past year.
But here's the good news: Even though it is hard to quit, the benefits of quitting begin almost immediately.
The National Cancer Institute provides the following benefits of quitting:
- Lower blood pressure.
- Decreased carbon monoxide levels in the blood.
- A stronger sense of smell and taste.
- As high as a 90 percent decrease of the risk for dying from a smoking-related disease.
- A decreased risk for developing cancer
Where to Get Help
Talking to teens about smoking can be a challenge, but it is a necessary conversation every parent should have with their kids. These are just a few statistics and studies you can use to inform your teenager of the hazards of smoking and the negative impact cigarettes will have on their life. Finally, if you know a teen who needs help quitting, tell them to call 1800-QUIT NOW (784-8669), and for additional resources about smoking go to CDC website.