Talking to Kids

Each year in Iowa, roughly 4,000 kids under 18 become regular smokers. Many parents think their child isn't using tobacco because he or she is too young, too smart, plays sports, doesn't have the money to buy tobacco, complains when others use tobacco or has seen firsthand the effects of tobacco. However, young people experience stress, peer pressure, the desire to rebel, and other common age-related characteristics that make them ideal candidates for tobacco use.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 1 in 4 high school students smoked a cigarette in the past month, and nearly 1 in 6 high school students smoked a cigarette before age 13. The good news is that young people who don't start using tobacco by age 18 most likely will never start.

So, it's time to talk with your child about tobacco use. It's not easy, but it's important that you do it today. Giving your kids information about the risks of tobacco use, and establishing firm, clear rules and your reasons for them can help protect your child from unhealthy addictions.

How to Start the Tobacco Conversation

Start Early.

There should be no such thing as the "tobacco talk." Once is not enough! Start the conversation with your children when they are five or six and continue it through high school.

Use the facts.

Tobacco causes lung and heart disease, cancer and stroke. Tobacco contains nicotine, one of the most addictive drugs known to man. Visit our fact page for more facts & stats.

Don't allow smoking or tobacco in your home or vehicle.

If guests or relatives insist on smoking, send them outside. You'll also be protecting your children from secondhand smoke.

If you don't use tobacco, don't start. If you do use tobacco, quit.

Research shows children who have a parent who smokes are more likely to smoke.

Share with your children the consequences if you find them smoking or using tobacco.

Be clear with your child that there will be a punishment.

Emphasize the immediate health effects of tobacco use.

Tobacco causes many immediate health effects such as persistent cough, respiratory problems, and greater susceptibility to illness.

Emphasize the effects of tobacco use on physical appearance.

Tobacco causes yellow teeth, bad breath, smelly clothes, and premature facial wrinkles.

Destroy the myth that everybody smokes.

More than 80% of youth and adults in Iowa don't smoke.

Open up the conversation for questions.

If your child asks something you don't know, simply say, "I don't know, but I will find out for you."

If you are interested in coordinating a parent education meeting about talking to your children about tobacco use, please contact us.