Daily Health Tips: How Can I Discourage My Teenager From Smoking?


Happy Boxing Day everyone! I trust you had a good celebration yesterday 😀

Q: Hi Dr ketch. I need advice I have 15 years old. I don’t know how to handle him. I’m trying to be a better parent to him but he doesn’t want to hear me. He started talking about smoking, drinking and talking about the girls with their friends. When I asked him, he said he doesn’t do that. So please help me. I want to believe but it is hard. Please, give me the advice.

A: When I was younger, the picture of a cool guy wasn’t complete without a cigarette in his hands. Then, if he had a cigar, men! That was hyper ultra-cool! He would usually be seen leaning on a cool car, with lots of other dudes hanging on to his words and pretty girls dying to be given the eye by him. In fact, some television adverts for cigarettes would go so far as to show how with puffs of cigarettes, a regular guy not only becomes super-cool but also becomes a super athlete, star etc. Do they actually possess these powers? Hmmm!

For the younger ones, repercussions that are too far in the future are difficult to comprehend today when they are all hip and cool. The talk of all the consequences is kinda like lots of smoke without fire! And the tobacco companies have also gotten innovative, they take the advert to where the young ones actually hang out. The time of discovering tobacco is about the same time that alcohol is discovered and so the young‘uns are hanging around bars and night clubs (I thought there were age limits for admission? :O). This is where the tobacco companies go and they have a huge and captive audience.

Tobacco use has a lot of health implications and has been noted as a risk factor in lung diseases, heart diseases and cancers. This may appear to be too far in the future and difficult for our teenagers who are in their prime to contemplate. So, perhaps educating them about more short to medium term consequences may be helpful. Some of these include:

  • Reduced fitness levels…making them appear old and fuddy-duddy! They can’t even join the cool sports teams.
  • Nasty smelling breath that even tooth paste, breath mints and candy cannot mask.
  • Becoming unattractive to non-smoking peers
  • Stained teeth and fingers
  • Wasting money that could be used for clothes, music or other items
  • Finally, the fact that the teenager loses control and can’t stop smoking once addiction to nicotine appears.

 

I had a very close relation who smoked…a lot. He also drank…a lot. He eventually died with complications of hypertension, Diabetes Mellitus, liver cirrhosis and lung disease. Granted, there was a whole lot more going on than just the smoking but it’s now a case of which came first, ‘the cart or the horse’. I don’t know but I can surely tell you that smoking didn’t help him any. Tobacco use is a major preventable cause of death worldwide. The reasons for tobacco use are many and diverse, but in a nutshell, appears to be a way from which people attempt to escape stress and the pressures of life. So the campaign for eradicating smoking goes beyond the individual and involves the Government which must provide the right socio-economic support for the issues people stress out about. Having said that, we also have a role to play.

There has to be a clear desire to quit and so being positive, being around supportive people and avoiding the areas where one usually is encouraged to smoke or drink, are steps in the right direction. Getting other hobbies, switching to oral substitutes like chewing gum, carrots and mints are also helpful. Brushing your teeth often is also a good idea as toothpaste makes cigarette taste really bad…so I hear 😀

Methinks though that the best way to discourage your teenagers from smoking is by setting a good example. They learn much more from what we do than from what we say. Remember that at this age, they also discover the opposite sex and it is important that we provide the right information to them.

Parents and/or guardians, would you even consider having a discussion about sex with your teenagers? Scratch that…let’s start with when your children were younger. Did you even tell them the proper names of their private body parts? Did you tell them the full implication of coming of age as happens in puberty? Did you indulge in those half-baked stories we heard a while ago about how girls would get pregnant if a boy so much as touched their hands…provided they had started menstruating? Do you think the teenager you were talking to believed you?

As the mother of teen and tween (that twilight zone before the real teens) 😀 daughters, I absolutely confess that it wasn’t as easy to have that chat with my first daughter as it was to give it to other teenagers. It got easier though and with my second daughter, and now we can all discuss all aspects of reproductive health without cringing, mentally or physically 😀 My son is still struggles…but we’re getting there 😀

The US Department of Health and Human Services points out that the following groups of teenagers are less likely to get pregnant or get someone else pregnant:

  • Those who have supportive parents that they can freely communicate with
    • Those who have healthy family and peer relationships
    • Those who have proper understanding of sexual and reproductive health
    • Those who have knowledge of contraception and the importance of abstinence.
    Teenagers more at risk of getting pregnant include
    • Those that live in unstable homes (financially or emotionally)
    • Those who were born to teenage mothers
    • Those who use drugs of addiction. Remember that using these messes with good judgement
    • Those who have sex at a young age
    • Those with low self esteem.

Now, remember that risk factors are just as the name implies…factors that increase your risk 😀 It does not follow that people who live in homes with conflict must have teenage pregnancies. No! It just means they need to be aware of their increased risk (loaded gun) and be sure not to pull the trigger…and get pregnant.

If you’re a parent, are you providing adequate information and a safe home environment where your children can thrive in all ways? Are you comfortable discussing these issues with your children? Are you aware that if you’re not providing this education yourself, you’re probably allowing your teenager to learn from his friends and/or the internet…where he/she may very well be learning all the wrong things!

Truth is that if you have never been open and close to your son before now, it’s probably that much harder. However, you’ve got to try. Engage him in activities he’s interested in like sports etc and encourage open discussions without judging.

Hopefully, this helps

Have great night y’all 😀

 

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