Teen Smoking - Why Media Campaigns and Education Are Not Enough

Teen smoking ...

... is on the rise. Despite media campaigns and school awareness programs, approximately twenty-three percent of high school students smoke. This group is comprised of an equal number of girls and boys. Of all ethnicities, white teens make up the largest percentage of smokers, with Hispanics next and African Americans following closely on their heels. Every day, 3900 kids between the ages of 12 and 17 light up for the first time. Of these kids, nearly half become addicted to nicotine for life. What can parents do to help their children make the decision not to smoke?

Before grappling with this question, let's explore what we're currently doing to address the issue and why it's not enough. For the past twenty years, education and media campaigns have been the primary way of teaching children not to smoke. Although education works for some kids, it's not enough for everyone, as evidenced by current teen smoking statistics.

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This failure has driven educators to start the process earlier. The thinking is: if we teach them younger, they will have a better chance. For instance, my thirteen-year old attended his first anti-smoking class in fourth grade. In sixth grade, he graduated from the Dare Program but despite this, one-fifth of the kids who participated in it will start smoking in middle school or high school.

A teen girl smoking is perceived by impressionable teens as cool. Get around this perception by teaching your kids to value their health.

So if teaching kids about the risks of teen smoking (stunted lung development, respiratory damage, nicotine addiction and the tendency to use other drugs) isn't enough to prevent certain kids from lighting up, what are we missing? A study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services can shed some light—in their report, they cite the factors which contribute to teen smoking—low socionomic status, use of cigarettes by parents, siblings, peers and other role models, low academic achievement, lack of parental involvement and an inability to make the choice to turn down a cigarette.

So here's the truth. The common thread that links these factors is that children have little or no parental support or guidance. To make the right choices—choices that affirm life, choices that fly in the face of peer pressure—children need to feel loved and cherished. They need to experience a sense of competence and a feeling of hope about the future. Children need to be in the care of adults who accept them completely and champion their best interests, so they learn to care for themselves.

The problem with media campaigns and educational programs is that they focus on WHAT NOT TO DO and put responsibility for not smoking squarely in the hands of children who are unable to make this decision without the love and guidance of adults. Let's put the issue where it belongs. Let's focus on what to do and DO it. What can you do right now to change your child's experience, so he grows up valuing the gift of life?

I know the answer. And if you think about it deeply, you do too. The future of children begins with you—with parents who love their children for the fact of their existence, who understand the meaning of child stewardship and act accordingly. With parents who take the time to connect with, engage and truly get to know their children and guide them to become the best that they can be.

Kids who grow up in such homes have an easy time with issues like teen smoking because their choices reflect how they've been raised, how much their parents cherish them and, in turn, how much they value life.

Recommended Resources

  • If you have a teen who smokes and has all the defiant behaviors that often accompany smoking, get your teen help before he slides down that slippery slope of no return. Read my review of an at-home behavioral program The Total Transformation that has helped hundreds of thousands of kids turn around their lives.

  • A holistic way to help your teen stop smoking helps reduce restlessness and irritability making it easier to get off nicotine and addictive drugs. Optimizes the effectiveness of Rx-Hale and Crave-Rx.

  • Quit Smoking Today - use NLP to quit smoking quickly and permanently. Get this resource for your teen and if you smoke, you'll need to quit first in order to be a good role model for your teen. Doing so, will increase the health of everyone in your family.

About the author: Laura Ramirez is the award-winning author of Keepers of the Children - a parenting book that shows parents how to raise children to develop their natural strengths and lead purposeful and productive lives. The book makes parenting a journey of self-discovery for child and parent. Begin your journey today.

Laura also teaches a parenting class via teleseminar. You can learn all about parenting from the comfort of your home and get your most pressing concerns and questions answered.

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Copyright © 2006 by Laura Ramirez. All rights reserved. This article may not be copied in full or in part without the express written consent of the author, however, you may link to it from your web site, blog or forum or share the web address with a friend.

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