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? Yes, but it helps to have a little ammunition.
If you’re feeling outspent, out-messaged, and out-cooled, take heart. There are plenty of ways to fight back. Here’s how to help your kids resist the marketing of traditional cigarettes, vaporizers, e-cigs, and pot.
- 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.
- Tell them to wait. Tell them it’s important that they wait until their brains and bodies have developed fully before they consume something potentially harmful.
- 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.
- Help them see through the hype. Talk about marketing methods such as using celebrities and how companies try to make e-cigs seem as though they are healthier and better for the environment than tobacco cigarettes.
- Impart your values. Teens are still listening to their parents, despite much evidence to the contrary. 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.
- Look for warning signs. Be on the lookout for things that might be affecting your kid in other areas of his or her life— for example, social exclusion, school problems, and emotional instability.
- 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.
To learn more about what you can do to help stop e-cig and vape advertising, check out Common Sense Kids Action.