Hundreds of cases of lung disease and at least nine deaths have recently been linked by health officials to vaping.1 This is especially concerning in light of the explosive growth in e-cigarette usage by high schoolers (up 78% in 2018).2
There are also long-term concerns. More than 5.6 million of today’s high schoolers will die early from a smoking-related illness if overall tobacco usage among youth continues at its current rate.3 The large majority of people who use tobacco start early, and the younger they start, the more likely they are to become addicted to nicotine and have difficulty quitting.4
With about 90% of cigarette smokers trying their first cigarette by 18,5 it’s important to talk with kids about the dangers of tobacco early and often. Start chatting with them as soon as age 5, and keep an open and ongoing conversation through their high school years. If you need help getting started, try these talking points:
1. Tobacco damages your overall health.
Tobacco is not safe in any form — cigarettes, electronic, cigars, pipes or smokeless (chewing tobacco and snuff). Tobacco usage can cause cancer and smoking may lead to heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).6 On average, smokers die 14 years sooner than non-smokers.7 Make sure the consequences of tobacco use resonate with your child by using examples of relatives, friends or celebrities who’ve battled tobacco-related illnesses.
2. It’s addictive.
Teens may think they won’t become addicted or that it will be easy to stop. But it takes as few as five packs of cigarettes to become addicted, and it’s extremely difficult to quit.8 Chewing tobacco, cigars and e-cigarettes that contain nicotine are also addictive.
3. It’s a waste of money.
Calculate the cost of smoking, vaping and chewing tobacco with your child. Talk about ways that money could be spent, like purchasing electronics, clothes and other items instead.
4. It hurts oral health, too.
One of the most obvious ways tobacco is unappealing is in its effect on oral health. Tobacco usage damages teeth and gums and can cause tooth loss. Smoking can lead to yellow teeth and cause the dreaded “ashtray breath” (plus stinky hair and clothes). Tobacco usage also increases the risk of oral cancer and many other oral diseases and complications.9
Here’s how to help them say, “No!”
Kids often try tobacco to fit in with other kids. While they may see tobacco used in media or among peers, remind them that most teens and adults don’t use tobacco.
Talk about ways to refuse tobacco. Work with your child on language to employ if they are pressured to try tobacco. It’s helpful to role-play so they know how to act before a situation arises.
The more you keep the lines of communication open, the more likely your child will feel comfortable asking you questions and following your guidance to avoid tobacco.