Since 1977, every year, the American Cancer Society has designated the third Thursday of November as the Great American Smokeout. This year, this important event occurs on November 17. 

The Great American Smokeout challenges smokers to quit using tobacco products and provides them with resources to help avoid ever starting any type of tobacco use. Tobacco products are the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the world, which is why the Great American Smokeout remains such an important event.

Because tobacco is so difficult to quit using, it is crucial to start talking to your kids early as possible to prevent them from using tobacco products in the future. Finding the right time to begin the conversation may be difficult, but there are many things parents can do to help teach the dangers of smoking to children.

Start the Conversation Right Now

It’s never too early to start talking about tobacco with your kids. It is recommended to first mention tobacco use around age 5 or 6 and continue the dialogue throughout their high school years. This can be beneficial because many kids start using tobacco products by the age of 11, and even worse, many become addicted by the age of 14. By starting an open dialogue early and often, you can make a big impact on the decisions they make later in life.

Give Your Kids All the Facts

Many kids start smoking because it seems like the cool thing to do, but are not aware of the harmful effects that come along with tobacco use. It is your job to point out the negative health effects to your children, which include bad breath, yellow teeth, smelly clothes, coughing, and decreased athletic performance, along with life-threatening illnesses.

It is no secret that smoking has serious long-term risks like cancer, but it is important to relay this message to your children. It is estimated that smoking causes 32% of all cancer deaths in the U.S., including 73% of lung cancer deaths in men and 76% of lung cancer deaths in women. If you know someone that has been affected with a tobacco-related illness, you should mention this to your child while having the conversation to give them a real example.

Include a Discussion on Vaping

Vaping is the latest smoking trend being used by kids, teens, and young adults. Vaping was originally marketed as a safe alternative to smoking, yet there is no evidence that vaping is any safer than smoking cigarettes and may, in fact, be just as dangerous.

The liquid used in vaping is not mere water. The ingredients in the liquid, which the e-cigarette device turns into vapor, can contain nicotine, heavy metals, and cancer-causing chemicals. Nicotine, a highly addictive substance, is contained in both regular cigarettes and e-cigarettes. 

While some states have banned flavored vapes, researchers worry that an addiction to nicotine through the use of vaping, can easily translate later to the same addiction being satiated by cigarettes. Consequently, the FDA may still put a national ban on vaping. 

Set Rules About Smoking/Vaping

Be clear with your child that there will be consequences if they are found smoking or using tobacco products. Taking away privileges, like using their electronics or going to friends’ houses, can be a way to show them how serious of an issue this is.

While it’s important to have rules, when your child asks about tobacco, the most important thing to keep in mind is to be open and honest about the topic. You are the greatest influence in your child’s life, so what your child learns from you can point them in the right direction to permanently avoid smoking.