Kids are smart. You can’t tell them to just say no to tobacco and assume they won’t ask why. In fact, kids may ask questions about smoking you’re not prepared to answer.
“MD Anderson educates thousands of kids each year on the dangers of smoking and tobacco,” says Jeanette Lastrape, a senior health education specialist who focuses on youth and nicotine. “We’ve learned a lot about talking with kids.”
Lastrape says if you don’t want your kids to smoke, be proactive and be honest.
“Kids are bombarded with images of people using tobacco, so the earlier you start the conversation with them, the better,” she says. “If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so and work together to get the information.”
Below are some of the questions kids often ask Lastrape and her staff, and some suggested responses to help them understand the dangers of smoking and tobacco.
Is it bad if someone around you is smoking?
Yes. Secondhand smoke is full of harmful chemicals that can make you sick and can hurt parts of your body just like it would the person who smokes.
How do the tar and smoke get stuck in your lungs?
When a cigarette is burning, the chemicals start to melt together to form tar. Tar is very sticky, and it coats the lungs like syrup. That can make it harder to breathe.
Does smoking kill you?
It can. Tobacco use, especially cigarette smoking, is the most preventable cause of death in the United States. Cigarette smoking causes most lung cancer deaths. Smoking causes other illnesses, too.
Someone in my family smokes a lot. Should I tell them to stop?
Remember, people who smoke aren’t bad. They just made a bad decision, and it may be hard for them to quit. You can tell them that you care about them, and you don’t want them to hurt themselves by smoking. You can even tell them that quitting makes flowers, perfume and food smell better after only one day. It makes foods taste better, too.
How long does it take for your lungs to get better after you quit smoking?
A smoker starts to get healthier almost as soon as they stop smoking. A smoker’s lungs start to return to normal after about two weeks. Their risk of lung cancer continues to drop over several years.
Why do they make cigarettes?
For a long time, people didn’t think that smoking was harmful. Now that we know, we don’t allow smoking in most workplaces, to protect people against secondhand smoke. But smoking is still legal, and some people still choose to smoke, even though it’s dangerous to themselves and others. As long as people still make the choice to buy cigarettes, companies will make money, and will keep selling them. You can choose not to smoke because you know it’s dangerous.
Why do people smoke in the first place?
People start smoking for a lot of reasons. They may see their parents or other people they like and respect smoking. Their friends may tell them it’s OK to smoke. They may not know the dangers, or they choose to ignore them. But smoking is dangerous. The best thing is to never smoke, because smoking damages your body, and it’s hard to stop once you start.
Why do people keep smoking after they start?
There’s a part of your brain that tells you when something feels good, like when you’re eating good food, doing well in sports or feeling happy. Nicotine grabs on to that part of your brain and makes you think that you like it. It does this while harmful chemicals destroy other parts of your body.
Is it hard to quit smoking?
Nicotine tricks your brain into thinking you need to smoke and want to smoke. Smoking is a habit. Just like anything else you do all the time, It can be hard to change and quit the habit. When some people first quit smoking, they can get cranky. Some may have trouble sleeping for a while or eat more than usual. These things can be uncomfortable, but they don’t last. You can help by reminding the smoker that it’s better to quit than to keep smoking.
Are vaping and smoking an e-cigarette the same thing?
Yes. Vape pens are a type of e-cigarette. So are JUULs. All these products are electric cigarettes that have nicotine in them, just like real cigarettes. That means they are addictive. Even though they come in fun flavors, they are full of harmful chemicals.
If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so and work together to get the information.