A campaign for smoke-free kids

San Antonio’s health director, Colleen Bridger, said this week she wants to raise the age limit for buying tobacco products in the city from 18 to 21 — a campaign known as Tobacco 21.

“When you look at what we haven’t yet achieved, (Tobacco 21) is the single most important public health policy we can pass,” Bridger told the Rivard Report.

The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District is measuring community support for raising the age limit, with the idea of enacting a local ordinance by the end of the year.

Parents probably won’t mind getting a little help in trying to raise smoke-free kids. But there are other steps you can take to steer young people away from this very bad habit:

  • If you smoke, quit. Children look to their parents as an example, and children of smokers are more likely to smoke than children of nonsmokers.
  • Start talking about the dangers of smoking when your children are ages 5 or 6. If you wait until they’re 11 or 12, when they’re likely to be tempted to try cigarettes, their health attitudes are already pretty well set.
  • Explain to your children how tobacco advertising manipulates people into believing smoking is cool. If you encounter a photo of a smoker, ask your children, “Do you really believe the girl is going to want to kiss the guy after he takes that cigarette out of his mouth?”
  • Remind them of the cost of smoking. Point out to your children that youngsters who spend money on smoking could have bought music, makeup, new clothes, video games or other things that matter to them.
  • Pay attention to the friends with whom your children spend time. The chances they’ll smoke are greater if they have close friends who smoke.
  • Get kids involved in activities that are not connected to smoking. These include organized sports, hiking, biking, or other athletic activities.
  • Know what you’re talking about by becoming well-informed about the dangers of smoking. It’s important to have the facts. There’s no need to exaggerate or to say smoking is worse than it is. The truth is bad enough.
  • Arm your children with feelings of self-confidence and self-worth. What does self-confidence have to do with not smoking? Everything. Children who feel belittled or overly controlled will seek to escape, often taking up smoking to rebel.
  • Tell teens about the negative effects of smoking that may matter most to them at their age. These include bad breath, yellow teeth, and reduced athletic abilities. Teens often don’t respond to warnings about the long-term health consequences.
  • Tell teens about the harmful effects of e-cigarettes. These include serious lung diseases and harmful effects to their developing brains. Other names for e-cigarettes include e-cigs, e-hookahs, mods, vape pens and tank systems.