2016 saw some 4 million middle and high schoolers in America using cigarettes and other tobacco products. The good news is tobacco use among youngsters has declined in 5 years. Accordingly, 2016 saw 2 out of 100 middle school kids admitting they smoke – a mere 2.2% from the 4.3% in 2011. Additionally, 8 out of 100 high school students said they use cigarettes – a 7% down from 2011’s 15.8%.
The bad news is 4 million is still a devastatingly big number. Worse, half of the number admits to using two or more tobacco products, meaning, they not only tried smoking classic cigarettes, but they may also have dabbled with vaping, using smokeless tobacco and even smoking marijuana joints.
What compels the young to start smoking at a very early age? The most common reasons might surprise you. You, as a parent, could even be an influencing factor as well.
Your adolescent’s friends greatly influence what habits he picks up at this stage of his life. If his friends smoke, it’s likely that he’ll pick up the habit, too. This is most particularly true if he feels he’ll lose the relationship he has with a girlfriend or the risk of getting shunned by his peers if he doesn’t do it.
“Teens who use these substances often lie to parents, teachers, and others who care about their well-being. They may hide their use or dependence and find ways to use Juuls or dab pens belonging to friends,” said Goali Saedi Bocci, PhD.
Media and Cultural Romanticization
Adolescents and teens may think smoking is okay – even a masculine act for males – because they see it portrayed as such in TV, print ads, shows, and even movies.
A study discovered that young people who are more exposed to cigarette ads are two times more likely to have tried smoking and three times more likely to have been already smoking for the past month. That’s how great the power of media is in influencing young minds.
There’s more chance for an adolescent to pick up the habit if one or both his parents are smokers. Also, if the mother smoked while pregnant, her baby is more predisposed to be a smoker once he or she grows up.
It is very vital for parents to set strict home rules when it comes to smoking. According to one kids’ health site, these rules encourage teens not to smoke or do the act less compared to their counterparts. As they cannot light a cigarette in the comfort of their own homes, they only smoke occasionally, thus, reducing the chances of them becoming regular smokers in the future.
“Tell him that you can’t continue to give him an allowance because you don’t want him to use it on cigarettes and won’t financially support destructive habits,” said Carleton Kendrick, LCSW. “Your teenager might have savings or other income, but your financial sanctions might cause him to think twice before he spends his money on tobacco.”
Part of an Image or Set Up a Rebellion
Adolescents are at the part of their lives where they try to assert their independence or build up an image to the people surrounding them. They may pick up the vice believing it makes them look older, more independent or more self-confident, or they start on the habit to rile up disapproving parents.
Behind the smoking, a teenager could be suffering from depression, lack of self-esteem, stress, and anxiety. It could also be a means your teen uses to control weight gain.
Adolescents and teens can still be quite naïve about reality. They start with a vice even when they know the dire consequences because they think that being young makes them less susceptible to the harmful effects that bad habit brings.
Open communication, love and support, a good parent-child relationship and just being there — these factors go a long way when dealing with your adolescents and their many life issues.
“A parent’s open and transparent sharing with his teen about his own regretted decisions, and the difficulty that has resulted, can have a very positive effect on the decisions the teen makes,” Adi Jaffe PhD.