Tobacco Free Kids
by S2H RT Staff

If smokers were honest with themselves, they would readily admit that they don't want their kids to follow them into the cigarette smoking world. I think most people (smokers included) know that smoking is bad for them and those around them. Youth smoking is a larger problem than people want to admit. The smoking rate has remained flat over the last 20 years, despite hundreds of thousands of people dying from smoking related illnesses. Why is this? The answer is simple, youth smoking.

I remember watching television ads detailing the adverse effects of smoking. Those were great because I was incredibly impressionable and even though my dad smoked, I knew that I didn't want to follow in his footsteps. Except for some very artistic "Truth" commercials, I don't see a lot of public support for anti-smoking campaigns.

Interestingly, a study from the Netherlands published in Preventive Medicine, looked at what a public prevention program might look like and gives some insight into the success of such a program. They developed a program that targeted elementary students in 5th and 6th grade. These are ten and eleven year olds who are about to be placed into a junior high school atmosphere where all sorts of peer pressures and experimentations are really at work.

The intervention group received only three anti-smoking lessons in both 5th and 6th grade for a total of six lessons prior to advancing to 7th grade. They discovered the kids in the intervention group had a higher intention not to smoke and, in fact, started to smoke less often than the control group kids who did not receive the lessons. The smoking prevalence increased from 2.5% to 3.6% in the intervention group, whereas, the control group saw a jump from 3.2% to 6.5%.

Understand this is only after receiving 3 lessons in each grade prior to going on to secondary school. Imagine if they had received intensive reinforcement at home or on television. It appears that very little effort can provide large gains in helping children avoid taking that first experimental puff. Interestingly, the study found that girls had the greatest difference in smoking prevalency between the intervention and control group.

What does this mean for us? Well, I think it shows that a well placed conversation with your children over their elementary school days, can provide them with a great foundation for not smoking when they get to junior high or high school. So don't be shy about telling your kids to not smoke. Tell them how bad it is and what the potential consequences are when they're young. It seems they will want to stay as one of those tobacco free kids, even though their friends are telling them how great it is. Start your own anti-smoking campaign at home. Run your own anti smoking ads during dinner and don't be afraid to have these critical conversations with your kids. Turns out, they are actually listening to you after all. Who knew?

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