Advice For Parents From Smoking Prevention Spokesperson Dr. Michael Popkin
Most young people who smoke aren’t worrying about the long-term effects, regardless of how many times they’ve heard “smoking is bad.” For parents, the goal should be to convey the risks of smoking in a way that is meaningful. Easier said than done, right?
So, what is meaningful to teens and tweens? How do we get through to them?
According to Dr. Michael Popkin, published parenting expert and spokesperson for the youth smoking prevention program “Real Parents Real Answers,” one answer is shock factor. Popkin suggests the more graphic your argument, the more emotionally meaningful and powerful your message becomes.
“Smoking has many well-known consequences such as heart disease, various cancers, mouth and throat disease, and chronic respiratory diseases; however, other adverse health effects are being researched and discovered all the time,” says Popkin. “And then there are the more short-term noticeable effects: yellow teeth, bad breath, tooth decay, chronic coughing, increased phlegm, wheezing, rapid aging, decreased sense of taste/smell, and the stench of smoke in your clothes, house, hair and car.
“However, simply naming these health consequences means very little to a tween who’s thinking these things happen to others, but not to him or her.”
In this online world, it’s easy to find graphic, disturbing and otherwise shocking information to share with your kids. However, Popkin warns that parents will have to use their judgment to know how much is enough. Ideas to consider range from showing your child what a healthy lung looks like versus the lung from a chronic smoker or taking your teen to meet with someone who has had a laryngectomy.
“Shock tactics aren’t for every child,” Popkin states. “But for some harder-to-reach kids, a healthy dose of reality shows that the dangers of smoking aren’t just empty threats – they’re real health concerns that are just as likely to affect your child as they are anyone else.”
Popkin notes that there are a myriad of options that will help parents effectively talk to their kids about not smoking and suggests parents visit www.RealParentsRealAnswers.com for talking tips and tools. “It’s a conversation that parents need to have with their kids,” he says, “even if they are relatively sure it’s not something their child would do. Talking early and often about staying smoke free is the best tactic for keeping kids from participating in this dangerous behavior.”