This blog post was co-written by Nancy Viney and Reg Wulff. Reg’s bio is below and you can read more about Nancy on our Contributors page.
Whether you use tobacco or not, you probably don’t want your kids to start smoking or chewing tobacco. Let your kids know how you feel about tobacco and make an emotional appeal to help them avoid becoming addicted.
It’s a fact that if a young person can make it to their 19th birthday without becoming a tobacco user, then chances are they will never become one. Parents need to talk to their children about tobacco use, though, as youth can face pressure to use tobacco from a variety of sources.
We all know that peer pressure is a significant source, but what about other sources?
Movies, television and music have long had a powerful influence on youth. The tobacco industry uses that influence to exploit youth and recruit new tobacco users. Smoking in movies and on-screen is portrayed as glamorous, powerful, rebellious, and sexy while the health consequences are ignored. Listen to music on the radio and you may be surprised at how often smoking or cigarettes are referenced.
In May 2014, the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit released a report that examined the exposure to on-screen tobacco use among Ontario youth. During a 7-year period, approximately 13,250 youth aged 12 to 17 began smoking each year as a result of watching smoking in movies. Of these smokers, it’s projected that more than 4,200 will die prematurely as a result of smoking.
Kids can also face pressures while participating in sports. While Major League Baseball has long been associated with chewing tobacco, other sports like hockey and football have similar issues. The Sport Medicine and Science Council of Manitoba surveyed 2,000 athletes aged 12 to 21 regarding substance use and found that 52 per cent of male hockey players used chewing tobacco or snus. By age twenty, 75 per cent of Manitoba hockey players who took part in the survey reported they had tried “chew.”
Parents, coaches and other role models can counter these influences. Don’t assume that kids have the skills to resist peer pressure or media influences. You can help kids develop refusal skills to avoid tobacco and the addiction that can develop after one or two cigarettes. Coaches and athletes can set the example and not use tobacco products around kids. Sports and recreational organizations can develop, implement and enforce tobacco-free sports policies.
January 18-24 is National Non-Smoking Week. Let’s work together to influence youth to live a healthy, tobacco-free life.
About Reg Wulff
Reg is a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.