Smoking among Ontario teens is at its lowest level since 1977. But 14% of Ontario teenagers in Grades 7 through 12 still say they smoke every day. Find out how to help your teen remain smoke-free without interfering with their need to make their own life decisions.
Nicotine produces physical and mood-altering effects in the brain that temporarily feel good. Small wonder many teens take up smoking - school, dating and the weight of the world can hang heavy on young shoulders. And, if all your friends are doing it, it may be much easier to light up than to say no.
But once it gets to be a regular habit, smoking is tough to give up. Blame nicotine for that. Of the thousands of toxic chemicals in a single cigarette, nicotine is the addictive element, the ingredient that makes it so tough to quit. Experts say it is as difficult to get off nicotine as it is to quit heroin or cocaine.
“If you don’t start, you don’t have to quit,” anti-smoking campaigners say. There are steps parents can take to help their children stay smoke-free.
While your teen still lives at home, and under your care, try to influence the habits they’ll carry into later years. Don’t abandon your role as their parent and assume they will not listen.
Perhaps an appeal to vanity will work better:
Discuss with your teenager how cigarette companies make money selling their product to young people. Many teenagers ignore adults who nag them not to smoke. But they might think twice about listening to those other adults - the advertisers and manufacturers - who are trying to get them to start smoking and keep smoking for the rest of their lives!
Try some of these ideas:
More and more young girls are smoking. Rates for young Canadian women under the age of 24 are higher than the average for all women. And researchers are finding that girls are, in general, heavier smokers than boys.
Researchers are also finding that young female bodies respond differently to nicotine than boys, and that the long-term health effects of smoking are different for young women than young men.
Young women who smoke risk irregularities in their menstrual cycle, fertility problems in the future, increased risk of breast and cervical cancer, and other health problems related to mixing birth control pills with smoking. Also, if they get pregnant, their unborn child is at additional risk.
Among Aboriginal children, it has been found that girls are particularly more likely to smoke, and to smoke more heavily than boys. Aboriginal girls also seem to start smoking at younger ages than Aboriginal boys.
“Drugs and tobacco can seriously affect girls’ developing bodies,” says Dr. Christine Courbasson of the Substance Use Clinic at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).
“Women experience more interpersonal trauma than men,” says Pamela Stewart of CAMH. She adds that girls need to be treated differently for their addiction than boys - since the reasons they smoke (or use other drugs) are often different in the first place. Girls are more likely to experience low self-esteem and battle eating disorders. They also must consider smoking’s effects on the health of their breasts and on future pregnancies.
Teen smoking begins innocently enough, but it could be the first step towards a lifelong addiction and many health problems. Trying to be there for your teenagers at the outset is the best step towards getting them to see that the healthy choice to remain smoke-free for life!
Article - Your Body on Nicotine: The Inside Story
Article - Life After Quit Day - Not Always Smooth!
Article - Quitting Smoking - Making the First Move
The Canadian Cancer Society’s Smokers’ Helpline
The Canadian Cancer Society
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto
Driven to Quit Challenge
The Smoker’s Body
Tobacco Information Centre
Smoking & Pregnancy
Smoking and Your Body