Whether or not you smoke cigarettes or support legalizing marijuana, you probably don’t want your kids lighting up. But the rise of e-cigs, vaporizers like the Juul, and decriminalized pot may make your standard anti-smoking arguments — “it causes cancer,” “it’s illegal” — feel a little shaky. Add in celebrities posting pictures of themselves smoking various substances, and you might wonder: Is it possible to raise drug-free, smoke-free kids in the era of Smoking 2.0?
If you’re feeling outspent, out-messaged, and out-cooled, take heart. There are plenty of ways to fight back:
Explain how bad smoking is for you. Kids think they’re immune and immortal. The death statistics could be eye-opening, even for the “it won’t happen to me” age group.
Talk about how addictive nicotine is. Nicotine is really difficult to quit. Discuss the signs of physical addiction and the risk of getting addicted.
Help them resist gimmicks. Traditional cigarettes are trying to capture smoker interest by using kid-friendly tricks — for example, the Camel Crush cigarettes with a menthol ball inside. But the cigarettes still really are bad for you.
Vaporizors and e-cigs
Share the facts. E-cigarettes and vapes do reduce exposure to some of the harmful chemicals of tobacco cigarettes, but no one really knows the impact of these products on kids’ health. And studies show they contain formaldehyde.
Talk about addiction. Kids can get hooked on nicotine but also on the physical habit of reaching for a pipe.
Get your doctor involved. Have your pediatrician talk to your kid about the dangers of ingesting any chemical you don’t know much about.
Impart your values. Discuss what’s important to you: good character, solid judgment, and belief in a bright future — all of which are compromised by smoking pot.
Explain the health consequences. Study after study indicates that pot negatively affects a teen’s developing brain.
Encourage waiting. For some kids, forbidding might backfire, so focus on preventing them from starting to smoke in the first place, delaying it as long as possible.
Pull back the curtain on pot marketing. Kids and teens don’t like to be tricked, and advertising is full of sneaky ways to get people to buy a product, including branding pot products with names such as Bob Marley and Willie Nelson. Instead of lecturing, help your kids break down the ads to see how they try to influence emotions, choices, and behavior.