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teensmoking-1We’ve heard it over and over again, pick and choose your battles.

Smoking cigarettes could be the least of a concern with parenting a teenager, but health wise, it’s still a concern.  We also don’t want it to lead to other negative behaviors – such as drug use or drinking.

The fact is smoking cigarettes is bad for you.

Why do teens or even tweens start?  In many situations it’s peer pressure to be part of a crowd or group.  Maybe their parents smoke and they start by experimenting.

Kids can get pretty creative when it comes to hiding their bad habits from parents and most parents assume that their child would never do anything like take drugs, drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes. In all cases there are certain signs to watch for that let you know if your child is indulging in any of these risky behaviors, no matter how crafty they may be at trying to hide them.

Here are some signs to watch for if you think your child may be smoking. 

  1. More use of breath mints or chewing gum – Has your child suddenly felt it necessary to always chew gum or have breath mints? If so, there is a chance that they might be trying to cover up the bad breath that smoking causes.
  2. The dirty ashtray smell – Chances are if you confront your child about smelling like a dirty ash tray, their first response will be to blame it on the friends they hang around. This may or may not be true. If their clothes and possessions constantly and regularly smell like smoke, then there is a pretty good chance they are smoking.
  3. Yellowing teeth – Smoking causes the teeth to yellow from all of the chemicals they’re exposed to, so if your child’s teeth are beginning to turn a shade of yellow then you may have a problem on your hands.
  4. TeenBoySmokingShortness of breath – Smoking does affect the lungs and decreases lung capacity, so if your child is beginning to get easily winded it may be time to sit down and have a talk with them.
  5. Bad breath – If your child has really bad breath that reeks of smoke, it’s definitely time for you to have a heart to heart conversation about smoking and all of its negative side effects.
  6. Poor performance in athletics – If you see your once active child suddenly begin to decline in athletic performance this could be a sign that tobacco use is to be blamed.
  7. Yellowed fingers – Nicotine from cigarettes can cause yellowish staining of the fingers that commonly hold the cigarettes. If you’ve already had a suspicion you’ll want to watch for those telltale stains.
  8. Unexplained coughing – Children can cough due to colds and allergies but if your child is coughing and there is not a cause of which you are aware, you may want to ask some questions.
  9. Their space becomes off limits for you – As kids get older they want their privacy and their space becomes sacred to them. This is natural, but only within reason. If their room becomes completely off limits to you, look into the reason why. Does the room smell like smoke? Are they constantly burning incense?
  10. Overuse of perfume or cologne – Attempting to hide the smell of smoke on their clothes by using extra perfume or cologne is another possible sign that your child could be using cigarettes.

father-and-son-talkingWhile none of these signs alone are necessarily cause for concern two or more together may warrant a closer look. If you find that you do need to talk to your child, do your best to stay calm and keep the lines of communication open.

Now is not the time to lecture or sermonize. Find out what the appeal to smoking is and remind your child about the costs both financially and to their health. Having an open and honest conversation will show your child that you are genuinely concerned about their well-being and hopefully will cause them to rethink developing this unhealthy habit.  Get the real facts on the risks and dangers of cigarette smoking to have an educated discussion.

Be an educated parent, you will have healthier teens.

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