Topic 1 Keep Your Kids from Starting

Introduction

Using tobacco in any form is not safe. Most people who use tobacco regularly start before they turn 18. Youth report using different kinds of tobacco products, including cigarettes, e-cigarettes (vapes), cigarillos, hookah, smokeless (chewing or dipping) tobacco or snuff, and a variety of new and emerging products.

Kids need to know the dangers of using any type of tobacco now and in the future. Nicotine exposure during youth can harm the developing adolescent brain and can lead to a lifetime of nicotine addiction and tobacco use. Nicotine exposure can also prime the adolescent brain for addiction to other drugs.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States. Preventing the use of tobacco products in youth is a very important step to help keep kids healthy and to help stop the tobacco epidemic. And if they’ve already started using cigarettes, e-cigarettes, or other forms of tobacco, helping them quit is critical to protecting their health now and later in life.

Research has shown that teens whose parents often talk with them about the dangers of tobacco use are about half as likely to smoke as those who don’t have these discussions with their parents. This holds true whether or not the parents use tobacco themselves.

  • Remember that despite the impact of movies, music, the internet, social media, and peers, parents can be the greatest influence in their kids’ lives.
  • Start talking about tobacco use when your children are 5 or 6 years old and continue through their high school years and into college or as they start their careers. In many cases, kids start using tobacco products by age 11. And many are addicted by age 14.
  • Let kids know that using tobacco puts a strain on the heart, damages the lungs, and can cause many other health problems, including cancer. Smoke from cigarettes and vapors from e-cigarettes can be also harmful to people who don’t use tobacco products but are exposed to them.
  • Talk about the harmful effects of nicotine. Nicotine is found in cigarettes, cigars, hookahs, smokeless tobacco, and most e-cigarettes. Nicotine is very addictive. There is evidence that it harms the brain development of teenagers. It can also cause premature births and low birthweight babies if tobacco is used during pregnancy.
  • Also talk about what using tobacco can do to the way a person looks and smells: smoking and vaping makes hair and clothes stink, causes bad breath, and can stain teeth and fingernails. Spit and smokeless tobacco can cause bad breath, stained teeth, tooth decay, tooth loss, and bone loss in the jaw.
  • Include the actual expense of tobacco use in your talks, and how much money they can save or use on other things instead of tobacco products.
  • Know if your kids’ friends smoke, vape, or use dip or chew. Talk about ways to say “no” to all forms of tobacco.