Teen Medicine Physician Helps Teens Kick Butts, Offers Tips for Tobacco Prevention for Youth
AUGUSTA, Ga., Sept. 17 /PRNewswire/ -- If teens were taught early on about the consequences of using tobacco products, maybe they would think twice before having a smoke, says Dr. Robert Pendergrast, Director of Adolescent Medicine at MCG Health System.
While messages from parents and other groups about the dangers of smoking are effective, their effectiveness increases if a simple, strong message is delivered to children as young as kindergarten and elementary school age, he says.
"Ads, peer pressure and other smoking messages are very persuasive," says Dr. Pendergrast. "But if you start talking with your kids now, you can keep them from smoking later."
Parents in particular have a huge role in helping their kids not smoke, says Dr. Pendergrast, who regularly counsels teens on this topic.
It's been found that children of parents who smoke are more likely to smoke than children of non-smokers. And surprisingly, if parents who smoke don't smoke in the home and tell their children they are opposed to their smoking, even these children are less likely to pick up the habit.
Still, many adolescents do begin smoking between the ages of 12 and 14. It's up to these teens to decide to make a change.
But parents can help. "Offer age-appropriate messages that help them understand the health risks of smoking," advises Dr. Pendergrast. "And emphasize the drawbacks of smoking that they may be experiencing themselves -- the cost of cigarettes, the smell, the stained fingernails, the way they have less energy or cough when they play their favorite sports."
Physicians also play a significant role. They lend authoritative support to parents and psychological support to teens trying to quit, particularly during the first three months when they are suffering most of the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. In addition, physicians can provide prescription or non- prescription medications to help suppress the nicotine cravings.
Every day more than 6,000 adolescents under the age of 18 smoke their first cigarette, and more than 3,000 become daily smokers. Clearly, the need for education and the implementation of programs to help teens quit is still great.