By Jennie Crews
You can’t count on being there to help your child say no if someone offers him or her a cigarette. But by speaking up early and often about smoking, you may be able to snuff out a habit before it starts.
Most smokers pick up the habit before their 18th birthday. Experts recommend that you start talking to your kids about the dangers of smoking long before then – probably sooner than you think.
With a kindergartner, for instance, you might start with saying something as simple as, “Smoking is bad for your body.”
Here are some more suggestions for what to say and do as your child grows:
Make your feelings known. When deciding about issues such as smoking, children often ask themselves, “What would Mom or Dad think?” Be sure your kids know where you stand – that you don’t want them to smoke because you love them and don’t want them harmed, and that you’ll be disappointed if they do.
Put a face on it. Kids need to know how dangerous smoking is. If you know someone who died from a smoking-related illness, mention what happened to that person.
Play up the ugly stuff. Kids may worry less about getting lung cancer someday and more about what might happen to them now if they smoke. Point out that the reality of smoking – having stained teeth, bad breath, a nagging cough and smelly clothes and hair – is different from how smoking is portrayed in the media.
Build a relationship on trust and communication. When children feel like they can talk with you, they’ll be more likely to speak up if they’re pressured to smoke. Listen to what your kids say about their lives, and get to know their friends.
Be a role model. When parents smoke, their kids are more likely to become smokers too. So if you smoke, set an example by quitting for good. Until then, don’t let your kids see you smoke and don’t let anyone smoke in your car or home.
November is lung cancer awareness month and a great time to quit smoking thanks to the Great American Smokeout™. Stop by “Butt Stomp” at the PeaceHealth St. Joseph Cancer Center at3301 Squalicum Parkway, Bellingham on Thursday, November 20 from 7:30 to 9 a.m. to pick up your quit kit and get the support you need to stop smoking for good.
Jennie Crews, MD, is medical director for PeaceHealth St. Joseph Cancer Center in Bellingham.