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Mar 24

Parents Encouraged to Talk to Children About Tobacco Use

Every day children see tobacco advertisements or someone smoking, and every day an average of 3,000 kids start to smoke.  Cigarette smoking kills more people each year than alcohol, drugs, homicide, fires, automobile accidents and AIDS combined.  Sixty percent of all smokers started smoking when they were 13, while kids as young as five years old use smokeless tobacco.

Teachers, parents and other adults who talk with children about tobacco usually have one goal in mind — to stop tobacco use among kids.  Being a good listener gives you insight into your child’s world.  In your daily conversations, you can steer the talk to the topic of tobacco and other drugs and tell your child why they are harmful.  Preventing children from using tobacco requires continuous communication with them while they are young.


  • Every 13 seconds someone in the world dies from a tobacco-related illness
  • Teens who smoke are more likely to drink heavily and use illegal drugs such as marijuana and cocaine
  • One in five high school seniors smokes every day
  • Smokers lose an average of 20-25 years of their lives because of cigarettes
  • The nicotine in tobacco has been shown to be more addictive than heroin

When it comes to dangerous substances like tobacco, don’t assume that your children know where you stand.  They want you to talk to them about tobacco and other drugs.  State your position clearly.  If you aren’t clear, children may be tempted to use.

Although it is legal for adults to smoke cigarettes, the negative impact tobacco has on a smoker’s health is well documented.  If you smoke, your child may ask you why.  This can be a good opportunity to gain the trust of your child.  Let them know that when you started you didn’t know how bad it was and now it is hard for you to quit.  They will appreciate your honesty.



In Maine, some 7th Grade students studied the Surgeon General’s Warning that appears on all tobacco ads, cigarette packs and spit tobacco.  They came up with some catchy messages that wound up in the local newspaper:

  • Surgeon General’s Warning: If you smoke, you’ll choke, then croak, so don’t be a dope!
  • Surgeon General’s Warning: Smoking will cause social problems, health complications and death.  Quit now or forever hold your breath.
  • Surgeon General’s Warning: Smoking doesn’t just empty your life.  It empties your wallet.

Taken from “Parent Newsletter” by Iowa Health System as part of the Take Care Initiatives.  For more information on this or other programs, visit or call 515-241-6709.