Teens & Smoking

February 12th, 2013 posted by Joan Bramsch

teenage smoker This is a most serious topic. I’m keeping my promise to discuss the Parental challenge to prevent smoking and drinking by a teen child. IMO the challenge begins long before the child reaches teendom. It begins in babyhood: CHILD: “Why is that lady sucking on the stick that’s on fire?” PARENT: “It’s a very bad habit that lots of people can’t or won’t stop. CHILD: “Yuck!” Now wasn’t that simple? Yeah, right! Actually, this is a very difficult challenge. Here in Missouri, for example, a recent survey reveals that 40% of teens smoke! Bad news. Those of us who smoke or who have smoked didn’t do it alone. Of course, there is ALWAYS a choice, but the pressure and, more importantly, the approval was almost always there in the past. My paternal grandparents smoked, as did my father and his brothers. My maternal grandfather smoked but grandma did not, and my mother did not. Bill’s parents both smoked, as did all his aunts and uncles. We can consider this the legacy of WW II and the generosity of the tobacco industry to the war effort! Everybody smoked, it seemed. When Bill and I were raising our children, we both smoked. We’d smoked since we were young teens. No one disapproved. We smoked enough packs to purchase a Cadillac. We don’t smoke anymore. I recently found out why my son didn’t like to take out the trash. He hated the smell and cloud of cigarette ashes when he tied up the plastic sack! Needless to say, he doesn’t smoke. Our first two daughters also hated the smoke – I suspect the Health Department’s Public Service notices were beginning to make a dent in the habit, too — and so they have never smoked. Our last two daughters both smoke. One is a copy of me so genetics could be a part of it as research is revealing. The other daughter is ADHD and that may be a reason. Both want to quit and they will, but it is difficult to do after a lifetime of addiction. IMO teens who smoke truly are condemning themselves to a life of addiction. I don’t think it’s the tobacco, as much as the additives that cause the greater harm; even the fibers in the filters can cause lung problems similar to asbestos fibers. So why do teens do it? To show off. To be like their peers. To boost their self esteem To calm down and relax. To feel grownup, although I suspect this one does not pack the wallop it once did. Smoking, these days, has much to do with certain cultures; perhaps, it always did. Many blue collar working families have members who smoke. Many minority families have members who smoke. A lot. Generally, the more educated a person becomes the less likely s/he is to waste money and threaten health by smoking. Generally speaking, it appears that the people who have the least money smoke the most! To me, that is very sad. So what do the people with the same information we all have, but better sense do? They DON’T smoke! They learn to deep breath to get calm. Their peers gag, cough, sneer and loudly complain if any in their group lights up — in this case, peer pressure is fabulous! They take pride in their bodies, knowing their hearts are strong and their lungs are clean and capable of great good work for their long lifetimes. Smart Teens realize that smoking will absolutely shorten their grownup years. If they are in a caring circle of friends, the group will assist one another. Our teen granddaughters, for example, have friends with like interests — music (they are all members of the #1 marching band in America), all are honor students and plan college educations, no smoking, drinking or swearing, good driving skills, strong friendships and I believe they are celibate. They are not prudes or goodie-goodies; rather, they are smart students who have very strong values they intend to honor. The group helps each other. In this day, it seems almost miraculous that a large group of healthy, happy young people choose the high road and enjoy the trip! So, as in my day, Teens continue to be judged by the company they keep. If a teen chooses to smoke, where did s/he learn it was okay to do so? Does the parent smoke? Or others in the family? Or the teen’s close friends? Do you see how you cannot separate a teen from a vice so easily when they are already teens? The separation begins in babyhood. If they are no longer babies, then the Teen probably has to be encouraged to see the light for her/himself. But the Parent has a right to have rules like: No smoking inside the house. No borrowing other family members’ clothing — burn holes and odor. No smoking in the car. Help them to realize that the tobacco industry has worked hard, through the years, to make cigarettes addictive. The companies have been forced to admit it. It should make smokers angry that they have been used as subjects for this Great Experiment that made the tobacco tycoons rich. It cost the smoker a great deal of money and, perhaps in the end, her/his life! Teens are VERY strongwilled people. A Teen can make a choice NOT to smoke, not to throw away precious money and not to stink like a dirty ashtray. A Teen can choose to set a good example to help friends to not smoke, rather than join them. I have heard that some parents offer their child $1000 or a new car if s/he doesn’t smoke until they are twenty-one years old. Was this a deterrent to any of you dear Parents? Have any of you made similar promises to your teen? REGARDING teens drinking alcohol, all the above may be applied. A Parent may want to ask themselves why the child feels compelled to drink? What sorrows or sadness do they want to drown? If there is a history of alcoholism in the family the Teen must be made frankly aware of the genetic flaw which will try to catch her/him in the same debilitating habit. It’s like playing Russian Roulette with a beer bottle for a Teen from a family plagued by alcoholism to try to beat the odds. He or she won’t! We all know Teens who feel immortal and therein lies the Challenge. Like Superman or Wonder Woman, nothing can hurt them. Their feeling of invincibility is a good thing, too, else how could they go out and change the world into a better place? Thank heavens, many Teens are now educated about the dangers of drinking and are helping to spread the word. Parents and educators are helping Teens too, by providing exciting but safe arenas to celebrate the happy events that mark Teendom – proms, dances, winning teams, graduation. But PEER PRESSURE coupled with feelings of invincibility may be the most difficult for a Teen to overcome. Every week or two we hear about another teen who drank and drove … to death. Every month or two we read about another teen who drank to the point of alcohol poisoning and died. And when the teen gets to college, even a smart, informed All-American Teen may do something really stupid like binge drink. For the young women there’s the additional danger of swallowing a drugged drink. It’s called the date-rape pill; in my parents’ day a drink called a Mickey Finn did the same thing. What I’ve tried to impress upon you is that Information and Education and your VERY STRONG DISAPPROVAL are your keys to helping your teen choose for her/his Good. You truly are Empowered more than you may realize; a child really does want to obey her/his Parent’s wishes! Remember, please, these social challenges aren’t new on Planet Earth. Each generation is plagued by temptation. For example, illegal drugs — which we haven’t even broached in this discussion — may be more prevalent in this generation, but I wonder if that is really so. Perhaps, tracking and testing and instant reporting are what’s become more prevalent. Travel back in time to the Roaring ’20s. Prohibition made everyone want to drink. Those were some wild times. It appealed to every dark exciting vibe in the nation. Going to secret places to drink illegal alcohol while dancing to jazz, then driving home in a new Roadster, drunk as a skunk. And drugs were everywhere, too! They even put cocaine into drinks; there was a wine brand called Coca-Vino! My darlin’ Grandma told me she prayed every night that her three boys wouldn’t get hooked on drugs. So have times changed that much, really? I believe the greatest Parental TOOLS are setting a good Example, asking the teen NOT to drink, and taking their job of parenting seriously. I submit that the majority of Teens who head for big trouble are, more times than not, Teens whose parents don’t parent!

Joan Bramsch (1 Posts)

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