World No Tobacco Day 2020: How to prevent your younger family members and friends from picking up smoking
Young people are particularly susceptible to picking up smoking because the tobacco industry often campaigns to gain a new generation of consumers.
Your favourite hero, in that flashy movie or television show, puffs on a glowing stick and delivers a dialogue, and you forget for a few moments that the bare and brutal facts of tobacco smoking indicate a different story altogether. The truth is that tobacco kills more than half its users.
Why tobacco is just not cool
The World Health Organization (WHO) reveals that tobacco consumption kills more than eight million people each year, and seven million of those deaths are due to direct tobacco use. Even passive smoking manages to kill around 1.2 million people every year. So, the WHO and its global partners observe World No Tobacco Day every year on May 31 to raise awareness about the far-reaching ill effects of tobacco use, and to discourage the use of tobacco.
This year’s theme is “Protecting youth from industry manipulation and preventing them from tobacco and nicotine use”. Young people around the world, including children and teenagers, are particularly susceptible to picking up smoking because the tobacco industry often campaigns to gain a new generation of consumers. Flavours like cherry, bubble gum, candy, sleek designs and packaging, celebrity endorsements and smart product placements in trendy shows and movies - these are just some of the strategies 'Big Tobacco' uses to attract young people.
Tips to prevent youngsters from smoking
So, what can you do to stop young family members and friends from picking up this poisonous habit that eventually kills? Try using the following methods.
1. Lead by example: Be a good role model and don’t smoke yourself. Make sure all adults around the youngster act responsibly and don’t smoke in front of them (or at all). If you or another primary role model are trying to quit smoking then share your experiences with the child, express all the harm smoking has done and what a toll it has taken.
2. Share, don’t scare: Scaring your child, nagging or threatening them might work sometimes, but kids also tend to get stubborn and hide their feelings/actions in such cases. Create an open environment where conversation is possible, and where kids can discuss their fears, insecurities, interests and peer habits freely. These are usually the avenues from where the smoking habit emerges, so an open environment can help you nip the issue in the bud.
3. Educate: Don’t just teach kids about the ill effects of smoking and tobacco consumption, or share horror stories. Kids are smart, so show them how marketing strategies, advertisements, product placements, etc work. Appeal to their intelligence and help them see beyond the facade.
4. Cut the glamour: Reduced stamina, bad breath, stained teeth and lips, stinky clothes, horrible skin and a bad attitude due to nicotine withdrawal - show kids the ugly and brutal everyday life that smokers lead, and ask them if they want that from their lives.
5. Make them count: Smoking is a very expensive habit and it’s likely to get even more so. Do the math with your children and show them just how much money it takes to maintain a smoking habit. Ask them if they’d rather waste their money or buy more appealing essentials like trendy clothes, electronics, etc.
6. Look beyond cigarettes: E-cigarettes, hookahs, sheesha, vapes, etc might seem like “cleaner” alternatives to cigarettes, but they too carry immense health risks. There are also other sources of tobacco which are prominently advertised, like gutkha. Explain how these products work to them.
7. Empower: Saying no, especially under peer pressure, can be very difficult for kids. Strengthen their resolve, and teach them how to say no by rehearsing different scenarios they might face throughout their school, college and work life.
8. Get them involved: It’s not enough to be active yourself in local, national or global campaigns against tobacco and smoking - get your kids to join too. This will not only reaffirm their resolve but help them be a part of a global support group that can assist them in avoiding the habit forever.
For more information, read our article on Disadvantages of smoking and benefits of quitting smoking.
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