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Parental Prevention: Your Influence Matters

Big Tobacco is Targeting Our Kids

Big Tobacco is talking to our kids every day. In convenience stores, in magazines, online, and through special promotions designed to lure them into thinking that smoking is cool or a way to express their independence. Big Tobacco spends millions of dollars on slick marketing tactics to replace those customers who die from using their product or who have quit smoking.

Kids make ideal candidates for tobacco use. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly one in four high school students smoked a cigarette in the past month, and nearly one in six high school students say they first smoked a cigarette before age 13.

Big Tobacco's real stronghold is among our young adult population. When college age youth and youth heading to the workplace are out on their own, it ushers in a new era of experimentation and life pressures. Big Tobacco's strategy is to plant seeds during the teen years in order to predispose youth to view tobacco as an adult behavior that "most everyone tries."

There is No Reason to Feel Helpless

As a parent, you can influence your kid's decisions and make a difference. Despite the impact of movies, music, and TV, parents can be the greatest influence in their kids' lives. Many kids don't smoke or don't continue smoking after they try it simply because they don't want to disappoint their parents.

It's time to talk with your kid about smoking. It's not easy, but it's important that you do it today. Getting involved today will help you stay connected tomorrow.

Programs for Parents

Help us fulfill our mission of tobacco prevention. Find out more about programs for parents by viewing our Got A Minute? page.

What Can You Do?

  1. Start early. Begin a dialogue about tobacco use at age 5 or 6.
  2. Stay involved with your children. Commit to doing simple things like sharing meals, asking them questions, complimenting them when they do something right, and scheduling time together.
  3. Continue an ongoing conversation about tobacco throughout their high school years. Many kids start using tobacco by age 11, and many are addicted by age 14.
  4. Use the facts. Let them know it's dangerous, addictive and causes cancer, heart disease and stroke.
  5. Don't allow smoking in your home. Make tough rules for your children, friends, and family members.
  6. Talk about tobacco messages and ads. Discuss with kids the false glamorization of tobacco in the media and about the advertising they see in retail stores and magazines.
  7. Offer your child ways to refuse tobacco. Teach them about the options they have when presented with opportunities to smoke, such as saying "My parents would kill me," or walking away.
  8. Tell them what you'll do if you find them smoking. Let them know the consequences of smoking, and set rules that you enforce.
  9. Get involved in your community. Connect with teachers, other parents, and community members to help integrate prevention education and make school and community events tobacco free.
  10. Ask experts for advice. You child's doctor and other health experts are good sources of information, as are other parents who have raised tobacco-free kids.
  11. If your child smokes already, help them to stop. Contact the Maine Tobacco HelpLine for support on helping your child quit.

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Is Your Child Already Smoking?

You may not think so - maybe you think he or she is too young or too smart, plays sports, has no money to buy cigarettes, complains when you or others smoke, or has seen firsthand the effects of smoking when a family member got emphysema or died of lung cancer. But everyday, youth are getting hooked on tobacco and becoming addicted.

  1. Look for the warning signs. Kids who smoke often have friends that smoke, use mints and perfumes to hide the smell, and leave the house for unexplained reasons. Once you see the warning signs, start asking questions.
  2. Be direct but non-confrontational. This is your chance to help your child recognize the dangers of tobacco use, and your compassionate communication may be the key to your child's long-term success in quitting.
  3. Know the excuses. Be prepared for excuses such as, "I can quit anytime," and know how to respond.
  4. Intervene - it can make a difference. Keep the lines of communication open, and help your child find his or her own reason to quit. Then, set a quit day and work toward it. You can also have your child call the Maine Tobacco HelpLine.


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Know the Risks of Secondhand Smoke

If you are exposing your kids to secondhand smoke, stop! A recent study showed that in households where both parents smoke, kids take in a nicotine equivalent of smoking 80 cigarettes a year. Secondhand smoke, a combination of the smoke in the air from a burning cigarette, cigar, or pipe and the smoke exhaled by a person who is smoking, poses a health threat to everyone who comes in contact with it.

There is no safe amount of secondhand smoke.

Exposure to secondhand smoke is the third leading cause of preventable death in America, and youth are particularly vulnerable. Children who live with smokers are more likely to develop asthma, get colds, allergies, ear and eye infections, bronchitis and pneumonia, in additional to heart disease and cancer.

If you smoke, quit!

Be a good role model, and protect your family from the health risks of secondhand smoke. Learn how to protect your kids from secondhand smoke.

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