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About Dr. Popkin Online Journal Dr. Popkin Interviews Chat Transcript

On August 17, 2005, Dr. Michael H. Popkin, the voice of Lorillard Tobacco Company's Youth Smoking Prevention Program, hosted a live, online chat to discuss ways you can encourage children and teens to stay away from smoking. The discussion was thorough and varied, with topics ranging from effective conversation starters to the enforcement of appropriate consequences for kids who smoke.

Dr_Popkin> Good afternoon, welcome to today's chat about talking with your kids about the importance of not smoking. I appreciate you taking your time to consider ideas for safeguarding your children from the risks associated with tobacco. Your input through questions and comments will help make this chat a worthwhile experience for everyone.

Jordyboy: I have a six-year-old daughter. Is it appropriate to start talking to her even at this age?
Dr_Popkin> It's almost never too early. Kids as young as 8 are being offered cigarettes. By 7 or 8, you can start having short talks about the reasons they shouldn't smoke.

llj11: What is the average age for a child to try smoking for the first time?
Dr_Popkin> Ninety percent of people who smoke begin before the age of 18, which is why it's so important to talk to kids early. A particularly risky period is middle school...

Alex: What warning signs should I look for?
Dr_Popkin> Hanging around with other kids who smoke, taking long walks to get out of the house, and sinking grades may be signs. Also watch out for a dip in self-esteem, a lack of interest in favorite activities, and difficulty communicating with you.

birdie2: when do i broach the subject of not smoking? we are going on vacation soon and i am wondering if this is the right time to discuss.
Dr_Popkin> Vacations are a great time to talk about important topics like not smoking, especially if you're taking a long car trip with a captive audience.

sassymom: I know that my child has experimented with smoking. How should I approach this situation?
Dr_Popkin> You can let them know that while it's normal to want to experiment, smoking is just too dangerous. The research is clear: parents who let their kids know that they will be upset if their kids smoke make a positive difference.

birdie2: Thanks, Dr. Popkin. I will use the long car ride to start the conversation.
Dr_Popkin> You're very welcome - thanks for joining us

Charlie: I'm not sure what the best way would be for me to start talking to my child. Any advice?
Dr_Popkin> Try to begin with a real situation. If you see someone smoking on the street or on TV, ask your child what he thinks about smoking. Reading or watching books and videos about smoking at home can also be good places to start.

johnf: Young people seem to be smoking more than ever. Will they relate to stories of people like Peter Jennings and others who have had their health adversely affected by smoking--or do they just think they're immune?
Dr_Popkin> Actually the smoking rate has continued to decline among teens during the last decade, which is good news. The bad news is that 25 percent of teens still smoke.
Dr_Popkin> As for Peter Jennings, I'm gald you mention him. This is a wonderful opportunity to begin a discussion on how smoking can destroy a great life. Get a copy of a recent magazine with his picture on the cover and use it to start the conversation.

Today_s_Mom: I have already talked with my children about smoking and they have had programs through school. How do I keep re-introducing the subject as they get older without tipping the balance of trust with them as well?
Dr_Popkin> Because they don't think about health problems that may occur in 20 years, tell them how smoking will affect their looks now -- yellow teeth, pasty skin, and bad breath. Tell them smoking is against family rules, and there will be consequences for breaking rules.
Dr_Popkin> Remember repitition is good, but don't turn it into a lecture. Get a dialogue going in which you build a strong case against smoking coupled with clear consequences for breaking a family rule against smoking.

Brandon1: I am an adult smoker, but I don't want my child to pick up the habit. How do you approach the subject of smoking is wrong with the child, if they know you are a smoker?
Dr_Popkin> You can still be a positive influence. Tell your children you don't want them to smoke and don't smoke around them. Tell them if you want to quit, but you must follow through and at least make an effort to do so. Stress that while you smoke, it is not appropriate for kids to do so.

ldk: at what age does the average teen start smoking?
Dr_Popkin> Studies show that some kids start experimenting with smoking as early as age 8, with most trying their first cigarette between the ages 12 and 14. Teaching them to make the right decision about smoking while they are young also builds the foundation for open communication about other tough subjects.

pollypo: What about kids who smoke marijuana and use cigarettes to boost their high. As a result they are become addicted to cigarettes. What advice to you have?
Dr_Popkin> No matter what reason they choose to use tobacco, you still want to make the case that it is not alright for them to do so and continue to make your arguments.

CurtWarner28: I'm very worried about my son taking up smoking but he's very combatitive. Is there a subtle or softer way to approach him about the topic without his getting defensive or stand-offish?
Dr_Popkin> Stay calm and try not to lecture. Listen to what he has to say without judging. Explain that you're talking with him because you love him and want him to be healthy and happy.
Dr_Popkin> With some kids the health risks aren't as important as other factors. For example, some are influenced by how smoking destroys your looks over time: yellow teeth, wrinkled skin, bad breath, smelly clothes, etc...

Sarah: My husband and I are experiencing some strain in our relationship, and I wonder if this type of stress in the house could make our child more likely to try something like smoking.
Dr_Popkin> Your ability to persuade your children not to smoke has a lot to do with having an overall positive relationship. If things are rocky at home, they may experiment with smoking as a way to rebel. Reassure your kids that you will always love and support them. Seek professional family counseling if your problems seem too big for you to tackle alone.

Today_s_Mom: What role do you think actors and athletes should play in promoting none smoking? How do you combat what Hollywood has dramatized very heavily over recent years?
Dr_Popkin> A number of actors and athletes have websites encouraging kids not to smoke. Introduce these sites to your kids and look for other positive examples. As for movies, it would be a big help if Hollywood would always portray smoking as unhealthy and uncool. When they don't, parents can use these examples to talk about "what aren't they showing you?" For example, you might ask your child if the character will be looking so cool when he's dying of cancer.

DallasDad: What should I tell my son to say to other kids who might try to pressure him into trying cigarettes?
Dr_Popkin> Humor: No thanks, I like my teeth white not yellow. Reverse pressure: Smoking isn't cool. Honor: No, I promised my parents that I wouldn't.
Dr_Popkin> These are all examples of role-playing examples you can use to coach your kids about how to say no without losing face.

melmeg: What are some of the influences that cause kids to smoke today so that we can avoid the problem?
Dr_Popkin> The biggest influence is having friends who smoke. Get to know your teens' friends' parents and work on the problem together.
Dr_Popkin> Kids also smoke as a way to rebel, so work on your overall relationship with your child through postive parenting skills.

john: Is it a foregone conclusion that virtually every kid will try smoking at some point?
Dr_Popkin> No, absolutely not. A lot of kids go their whole lives without trying a cigarette.
Dr_Popkin> Among those that do try, two out of three do not become regular users. Still, because some kids still become addicted, it's important for parents to use resources like the ones on this website to help their kids to never even try cigarettes in the first place.

heafay: what about having parents who smoke?
Dr_Popkin> Well, the best thing you can do for your kids is to give up smoking and to let them know that you're doing it because you want them never to smoke. If you're not ready to make that commitment, use your own experience to help influence them by saying something like, "I know from personal experience how hard it is to quit smoking once you've started."
Dr_Popkin> "That's why it's so important to me that you never even start smoking."

soccermom: If I suspect my child is smoking is it okay to search their room and/or car for evidence of smoking?
Dr_Popkin> I think kids should be afforded their privacy in much the same way the government affords us our privacy. In other words, if you have "probable cause" to suspect your teen is smoking, then it is OK to do the search. However, without any warning signs of smoking, these kinds of searches will be seen by your kids as an invasion of privacy and damage a good relationship.
Dr_Popkin> So, proceed carefully and make sure they know that you're doing this out of love and concern for their safety and not as some kind of "tobacco police."

Katie: What are the signs I should be looking for if I believe my child is smoking behind my back?
Dr_Popkin> Hanging around with other kids who smoke, taking long walks to get out of the house, and sinking grades may be signs. Also watch out for a dip in self-esteem, a lack of interest in favorite activities, and difficulty communicating with you. Any of these could mean that your child is concealing smoking from you.

Dr_Popkin> I thought it would be a good time to remind you of the steps of a good no smoking talk:
Dr_Popkin> 1. Ask questions. Don't lecture, get a dialogue going. 2. Listen non-judgmentally. Don't put your child's ideas down. 3. Make a persuasive case. Tell then how much you love them and want them to be healthy and strong. 4. Set the rule and consequences. Let them know smoking is against the rules and lay out the consequences for breaking that rule.

Brittany06: How do I convey to my children how harmful smoking is to their health when they always see strangers at restaurants smoking and it appears normal?
Dr_Popkin> Restaurants are a good opportunity to start up a talk. Make a point to sit in the non-smoking section and explain why you make that decision for yourself. When you see other people smoking, you can talk to your kids about the enormous risk they are taking.
Dr_Popkin> Again, this is a great time to use the Peter Jennings example. Here was a guy who looked great on TV every night, but what you didn't see was inside his lungs he was dying.

Today_s_Mom: I know one of my child's friends smokes. Though I know the friend's parents, we are not close. Should I and how would I approach them about their child's smoking?
Dr_Popkin> You can't pick your children's friends, but you can encourage her to spend time with other kids who don't smoke and whose parents share your concern about not smoking, drinking or using drugs. Tell her that the smoke smell on her clothes isn't very appealing to boys and that even being around smokers can hurt your skin and affect her looks, not to mention her health. Suggest that she ask her friends not to smoke when she is around.
Dr_Popkin> Also approach your child's friend's parents to see if you have common grounds about teen smoking. Maybe they need some encouragement to take a forceful stand with their own child.
Dr_Popkin> Your efforts may save a life.

StevenD: My youngest child has a DARE program at school and seems to have a good grasp of the health risks of smoking. But my older son doesn't seem to care about the harmful effects of smoking. Why is this?
Dr_Popkin> Younger kids respond better to talks about health risks. Teens and preteens know about the risks, but often don't think they will affect them. That's why it's important to focus on things that are more immediate and relevant to older children, like their appearance or the consequences they will face at home if they smoke.

stacy_s_mom: I have a 16 year old daughter who smokes frequently. I've tried everything to get her to stop. Do you suggest "tough love" as a proper punishment when logic and reason fail?
Dr_Popkin> I'm not a big proponent of tough love. I think your kids need to understand the consequences of smoking both in terms of health and family rules.
Dr_Popkin> Establish consequences like keeping them home more often so you can make sure she is not smoking, loss of use of the car, and checks of personal belongings. Do these things lovingly, indicating that you want her to grow up health and safe. But be firm.

Dow: I noticed in my son's summer baseball league that a few of the kid's on his team are using chewing tobacco. I'm afraid he might want "to fit in" with his team mates. Could you provide some information on how to apporach the subject with him and facts to let him know that even though he not smoking tobacco it could be dangerous?
Dr_Popkin> Let them know that spit tobacco can cause cracked lips, white spots, sores, bleeding in the mouth, and oral cancer.
Dr_Popkin> In Canada where they actually post pictures of smoking related diseases on cigarette cartons, there is a particularly digusting picture of a mouth destroyed by chewing tobacco.
Dr_Popkin> They found that pictures are 60 times more effective than words in preventing tobacco use. If you can find such a picture it would be a great way to start a conversation.

Bettina: My husband smokes. How do I tell my kids not to smoke without making my husband be the bad guy?
Dr_Popkin> Let your kids know how strongly you feel about not smoking, but explain that smoking doesn't make your spouse a bad person. If your spouse wants to quit, let them know and discuss how difficult quitting can be.

stacy_s_mom: If you have family members (other than parents) that smoke, how do you explain that it's an acceptable behavior for them as adults when you are trying to talk to them about NOT smoking?
Dr_Popkin> You need to explain that it's an adult decision, but smoking is never a very smart decision. The problem is that once a person becomes addicted to tobacco, it's often very difficult to give up.
Dr_Popkin> This doesn't make the person any less of a person. It just means they may need time, help and encouragement to give up this habit.

tish: what is the best way to respond to my child if i discover that they have smoked? Or have been smoking?
Dr_Popkin> Be direct. Tell them you want them to stop smoking right away. If you haven't already established consequences for smoking, do that now. Be firm, but also suggest fun things to keep them busy like exercising and playing sports or video games. Encourage them to avoid those who smoke and to go places where they can't smoke, like movie theaters or the mall. Ask your teen if he can stop on his own or if he needs help. If they can't or won't stop on their own, make an appointment with your teen's doctor for help.

BenjisDad: I just learned that my child is smoking and I want to punish her for doing it. What are some good punishments?
Dr_Popkin> The best form of discipline is always to find consequences that are logically connected tot he misbehavior that you want to change. For smoking, explain that if you are not able to trust them not to smoke when they are out of your sight, then you will have to keep them home more often where you can keep an eye on them.
Dr_Popkin> This means they may have to miss non academic activities like parties, dating and going over to friends homes for a period of time. You can also have them use some of that time to research and write a paper on why not smoking is cool. You should try to establish these consequences before you have to hand them out, though. And when the time comes to do that, stay calm. Remind your child that you love him and want to see him grow up happy and healthy.

Getty: If you are a smoker how do you go about punishing a child for smoking, without looking hypocritical?
Dr_Popkin> Again, emphasize that smoking is an adult choice and that it is never okay for teens.
Dr_Popkin> However, if you are ready to give up smoking, this is a great time to do so.
Dr_Popkin> We know that 90 percent of people begin smoking before age 18. So the goal is to postpone your teen's interest in smoking for as long as possible increasing his or her chance of never becoming a smoker.

Brittany06: My 15 is very stubborn, like most teenagers. Once she has her mind set on something she will do it regardless of the consequences. I'm afraid to punish her, because often it doesn't change her behavior but makes her sneakier. Also, what good is making her stay at home when it just makes smoking sound more taboo and increases the liklihood she will smoke at the next opportunity.
Dr_Popkin> Some kids respond to consequences, others, like you pointed out, don't. With your daughter, you'll have to try harder to help her see that smoking is not in her own interest.
Dr_Popkin> Use outside resources like pictures, news stories, videos, websites to help make your case.
Dr_Popkin> Abd if you know someone who has experienced the negative health effects of smoking, get that person to talk to your daughter.
Dr_Popkin> Once a teen wants to stop smoking, they may still be too addicted to do so on their own. If this is the case make an appointment with your teen's doctor to find other smoking cessation programs and resources in your area.
Dr_Popkin> Some teens who are depressed find that tobacco alleviates some of their depression. There have been some good results using antidepressant medications to reduce smoking. You may want to consider whether your teen would benefit from a meeting with a therapist.

GolfGuyGSO: Is there an age where kids simply won't listen to parents anymore about not smoking?
Dr_Popkin> Keep it in your conversations until they are at least 21 and are confirmed non-smokers. Kids are very influenced by peer groups. An 8-year-old who thinks that smoking is stupid may decide to try it when she is 13 because her friends are trying it.

Today_s_Mom: The friend is younger and I feel I should approach her parents to let them know this is going on. Is it my place to tell them directly? I would want to know if it were my child.
Dr_Popkin> Yes. Parents working with other parents is often the most effective route to take in addressing many teen problems including smoking.
Dr_Popkin> Your approach to preventing teen smoking is twofold: persuasion and consequences.
Dr_Popkin> Make a clear rule in your family that smoking is not okay for teenagers and that there will be consequences such as loss of freedom, loss of privacy, loss of a car, and other measures for breaking this rule.
Dr_Popkin> If they do smoke, follow through with these consequences for a period of time while continuing to talk to them about why smoking is such a destructive habit.
Dr_Popkin> Ask them if they can stop on their own or if they need help to stop. Then follow through.

Jennygee: My daughter has asthma. I'm concerned that if she hangs out with friends who smoke, it could affect her health. Should I encourage her to avoid these friends?
Dr_Popkin> You can't pick your daughter's friends, but you can encourage her to spend time with other kids who don't smoke and whose parents share your concern about not smoking, drinking or using drugs. If that doesn't work, suggest that your child tell her friends about her asthma and ask them politely not to smoke around her. Tell her that if they are true friends, they won't want to do anything that will harm her.

new_mom: My son believes that chewing tobacco is better for you than smoking cigarettes. Can I have some professional input on this?
Dr_Popkin> Don't get into an argument about which is worse. Tehy both can cause cancer and other health problems.
Dr_Popkin> Focus instead on helping your son find alternatives that can satisfy his oral urges. For example, many big league baseball players have switched from tobacco to bubblegum.

johnf: I see a lot of young people smoking because their parents smoke. I'm not a parent myself, but how can I convince my adult friends to ensure their children "do what I say, not what I do"?
Dr_Popkin> First, I'm not sure kids smoke because their parents smoke. Most research suggests that teens are more likely to smoke if their friends are smoking.
Dr_Popkin> Still, it would be a great benefit for parents to make the following bargain with their teens: "I love you so much that I'm willing to give up smoking if you promise never to start."
Dr_Popkin> If you do this, you'll have to make sure you follow through.
Dr_Popkin> I'd like to ask all of you a question: What are some arguments that you have found to be effective in preventing you or your teen from smoking?

mamabear1: I like that concept but my children are now young adults. Do you think that "bargin" will still work with them?
mamabear1: Sorry, I should have been more specific. I meant the "bargin" that I would quit if they promise to never start. Michelle
Dr_Popkin> It certainly may. But the fact is, you have nothing to lose by asking. (Nothing to lose but a bad habit)

tish: should my child be punished for smoking?
Dr_Popkin> Rather than "punishment" I talk about a concept called "logical consequences" in my Active Parenting courses.
Dr_Popkin> The concept involves finding consequences that are logically related to the misbehavior, in this case smoking.
Dr_Popkin> For example, it is logical that if you can't trust your teen not to smoke, then you have to keep him home more often where you can keep an eye on him.

Brittany06: If I start smelling smoke on my child's clothing and already know she is smoking, how can I get her to stop at that point...she's quite stubborn?
Dr_Popkin> Let her know firmly that it is not okay for teens in your family to smoke. Then enforce the logical consequences that you think are appropriate.
Dr_Popkin> Be ready to handle her anger, but remain firm explaining that you love her too much to let her destroy her health with tobacco.
Dr_Popkin> Then ask her if she can stop on her own or if she needs help stopping.
Dr_Popkin> Follow through by checking up on how she is doing.

mahwah2: Is there a correlation between smoking and drug use or are these two totally separate problems.
Dr_Popkin> Many experts talk about smoking as a "gateway" drug. In other words, most people who use harder drugs begin with tobacco. This is just one more reason why it's important to talk to your kids about not smoking, and to talk to your kids often.

MiamiJB: My teenager took up smoking after going through drug rehab. He says he needs something to keep he from going back to drugs. Should I tell him to quit?
Dr_Popkin> You need to help your teen learn to appreciate his health. Right now, he is playing a lesser of two evils game. When he comes to understand that whether he hurts himself quickly through a drug overdose or over time through smoking, both are foolish choices if you care about yourself.
Dr_Popkin> Help him find a safe alternative to tobacco for his oral needs: gum, mints, raw carrots, etc. Then help him find healthy activities for his adventure needs: skate boarding, rock climbing or other edgy sports might give him the thrill he misses from drugs without the health risks of tobacco.

new_mom: If my son is addicted to smoking, does that open up the doors for him to start using harder drugs?
Dr_Popkin> It puts him one step closer to using harder drugs, but doesn't mean he'll necessarily take that step.

new_mom: Since it is against the law to smoke under the age of 18, what would the consequences be if caught?
Dr_Popkin> This probably varies from state to state, but the biggest risk from smoking aren't the legal consequences, which are pretty minimal, but the health risks, which are major.
Dr_Popkin> As parents, it's important to enforce consequences in the family for smoking. As communities, it's important to support programs like "We Card" to make sure retailers are not selling tobacco to minors.

heafay: Kids think they are invicible.
Dr_Popkin> It's part of our job to convince them that they're not. Again, use outside resources, such as pictures, videos and other graphic material to show the health consequences of smoking.
Dr_Popkin> But, because of what you say, this still won't get through to some teens. So be ready to use other arguments. Some kids are motivated by the "yuck" factor -- yucky breath, smelly hair, wrinkled skin, yellow teeth.
Dr_Popkin> Other kids are motivated by the monetary factors -- help them work out the math on what they could save in 10 years if they avoided a two-pack-a-day cigarette habit and invested the money instead. They'd be astounded at what they could purchase with that money.

heafay: how can you get kids to understand the long-term effects?
Dr_Popkin> Get a copy of the latest Newsweek magazine for a great example. Peter Jennings said that he started smoking as a teen. He had no consequences until his mid 60s. At that point, he should have retired with 25 years of a great life ahead of him; instead, he died from lung cancer.

Katie: If my child is smoking behind my back and has developed a habit, what measures should be taken in order to break them of that habit? In other words, what would be a successful approach to confronting them and dealing with the situation?
Dr_Popkin> Be direct. Tell them you want them to stop smoking right away. If you haven't already established consequences for smoking, do that now. Be firm, but also suggest fun things to keep them busy like exercising and playing sports or video games.
Dr_Popkin> Encourage them to avoid those who smoke and to go places where they can't smoke, like movie theaters or the mall. Ask your teen if he can stop on his own or if he needs help. If they can't or won't stop on their own, make an appointment with your teen's doctor for help.

johnf: I think kids smoke for the same reasons they're now getting tattoos--they think it's cool. Plus, some of their pop culture heros are being photographed while smoking tobacco or even other substances.
Dr_Popkin> I agree with you. When kids think smoking is cool, they're more likely to smoke. This is why so much of the anti-smoking advertising focuses on showing smoking for what it is -- a disgusting habit that ruins your skin, teeth and overall appearance. Some of the celebrities also have anti-smoking websites where they help get out the message that smoking isn't cool. Help your kids find these sites on the internet.

Bob: Are young people influenced by smoking scenes in the movies?
Dr_Popkin> If smoking scenes portray smoking as cool, because cool characters are smoking, this sends a very negative message that should be avoided. When movies show uncool characters smoking, the message is probably a positive one.

pollypo: How many p[rograms are avaiable to help teenagers quit orreduce smoking
Dr_Popkin> There are smoking cessation programs in most communities. Talk to your child's physician or the local health department to find ones in your area.

ConcernedUncle: How can I talk to my nephew about the dangers of smoking, while still maintaing a "cool uncle" image?
Dr_Popkin> Funny you should ask - I will be having this conversation with my nephew this evening. If your nephew sees you as cool, and assuming that you don't smoke, you're in a good position to point out how uncool smoking is.
Dr_Popkin> You can talk about how it's a waste of health, money, looks and time, none of which is cool.
Dr_Popkin> Plus, girls who don't smoke don't like kissing boys who do. And that's not cool, either.

new_mom: Don't all addicts start smoking when they are young? How common is it for an 18 year old to decide to become a smoker?
Dr_Popkin> Statistics show that 90 percent of all smokers begin before the age of 18. That's why it's important to talk early and often, and let your teens know that they can make that decision when they are adults. In other words, postpone the decision and they'll probably never take up smoking at all.

Stressed_Out: My two-year-old daughter has seen a neighbor and various relatives smoke outside. Of course she's very curious and wants to know what's going on --- How do I tell my daughter that these folks, who she otherwise likes and respects are engaging in a dangerous and unhealthy activity?
Dr_Popkin> With young children, you can begin putting smoking in a negative context by making comments like, "Smoking's yucky or gross," or "I wish Mr. so-and-so would give it up -- it's bad for him."

heafay: How can you help with the self esteem issues that they might be goign through that are contributing to tobacco use?
Dr_Popkin> You're right that there are often a lot of issues that underlie smoking. It's important to work on building your teen's courage and self esteem, as well as other qualities of character. There are many ways to do this...
Dr_Popkin> You can find many of these at ActiveParenting.com. (Sorry for the plug, but this is what we do.)

Lizzy: I feel like I've tried everything to get my daughter to stop smoking and nothing works. What do I do now?
Dr_Popkin> If encouragement and enforcing consequences haven't worked, you may want to consider a professional stop smoking program. Some teen cessation programs work with schools. Check with your teen's school to learn if one meets there. Other places to check include your family physician, local hospital or your health insurance company.
Dr_Popkin> I agree that help and support for quitting is an idea that's time has come, but don't assume that all teen smokers can quit when they want to. About a third of teen smokers become addicted and need outside help to stop.

tish: It 's not exactly Prevention, but along the lines of doing something positive when/if your teens smoke: I think that offering help to stop smoking & then following up to see how they're doing is TREMENDOUS. It may not be a new concept, but it is one that was never offered to myself as a teen-smoker; i doubt that it was even considered. That is not said to sound mean toward anyone. The suggestion was given to stop smoking. Being the teens that we were, we could quit anytime that we wanted to quit - if we wanted to quit. Because we were smart, we knew that we wouldn't smoke for too long b/c we knew it was dangerous & not smart, we were tough.... How great it would have been to have support like this back in the day.
Dr_Popkin> I agree that help and support for quitting is an idea that's time has come, but don't assume that all teen smokers can quit when they want to. About a third of teen smokers become addicted and need outside help to stop.

Lizzy: I once saw my youngest (when she was 3) pretend to use a skinny toy as a cigarette. So it's clear to me that kids are influenced by smoking even before they really know what it is. How do you deal with a situation where they are just not old enough to comprehend what it is that they're imitating?
Dr_Popkin> I would gently take the toy out of her mouth and say "We don't smoke in our family, because it is yucky and bad for you. Let's play with this." And then give her something else to play with.
Dr_Popkin> Opportunities like this are great for giving young children a negative context for smoking. Always be ready to gently put down smoking with a digusted face and words like "yuck."

GeorgiaOne: Dr. Popkin, I have been aware of your Active Parenting programs for years, and think your advice is wonderful. Do you have an E-mail newsletter or other updates that I can subscribe to?
Dr_Popkin> You can go to our web site at www.activeparenting.com and click on the parent section for information about parenting courses in your area and other information.

GeorgiaOne: Thank you. Does the keep kids from smoking website also have an E-mail list?
Dr_Popkin> Yes, you can ask me a question any time in the "Ask Dr. Popkin" page within the "Parenting Expert" section of the KeepKidsFromSmoking.com website.

Nana: As a grandmother raising my pre-teen grandchildren, I struggle with ways to speak to them that bridges the generation gap and is relevant to them. Straight talk is best I know, but how can I seem credible in today's environment?
Dr_Popkin> You seem pretty credible to me Nana, so I begin with sharing from your own experience -- what you've seen with people you know who have smoked and not smoked. Then also use examples that are more current, like Peter Jennings and some of the non-smoking websites on the Internet. These can help persuade your grandkids.

BriannasMom: What time is the best time to talk to your kids about not smoking?
Dr_Popkin> Try to find a real situation. If you see someone smoking on the street or on TV, ask your child what he thinks about smoking. Reading or watching books and videos about smoking at home can also be good places to start.

Dr_Popkin> Let me turn the tables and ask all of you another question. Why have you chosen to smoke or not?
Dr_Popkin> While you respond, I'd like to share the four steps a good no-smoking talk should have again...
Dr_Popkin> 1. Ask questions. Don't lecture, get a dialogue going. 2. Listen non-judgmentally. Don't put your child's ideas down. 3. Make a persuasive case. Tell then how much you love them and want them to be healthy and strong. 4. Set the rule and consequences. Let them know smoking is against the rules and lay out the consequences for breaking that rule.

new_mom: I choose not to smoke because of the damaging affects it can have on your body, not to mention the smell it gives your clothes, breath, and house.

BriannasMom: When I was growing up, I was told that smoking can help you lose weight. Is this true?
Dr_Popkin> Let's first not forget that there are plenty of obese people who smoke. While some people do have a tendancy to put on a few pounds when they stop smoking, this can usually be prevented by chewing sugarless gum, mints or other low cal snacks.

heafay: I choose not to smoke because I am aware of the health consequences and I am really uncomforable with the smell and taste of smoke.

Dr_Popkin> That's great. As we've discussed, these same kind of arguments can help lead teens to choosing not to smoke as well.

llj11: My son is 16. If he stops smoking now, how long will it take for his lungs to clear?
Dr_Popkin> I can't give you an exact answer, but the sooner a person quits smoking, the less likely they are to die from lung cancer or experience other smoking related illnesses.

Dr_Popkin> For example, the recent Newsweek article on Peter Jennings' death has a graph that shows that if you stop smoking at 40, you are half as likely to die from lung cancer as someone who never stopped. However, you are still twice as likely to die from lung cancer as someone who never smoked.

Dr_Popkin> I want to thank the Lorillard Tobacco Company Youth Smoking Prevention Program for hosting this chat and continuing its commitment to keeping kids from smoking, through this website and other programs. Through the efforts of the Lorillard Youth Smoking Prevention Program and other efforts, teen smoking rates are on a dramatic decline, reaching historic lows in the latest studies. We all must remain 100 percent committed to keeping cigarettes from our children if we are to continue this positive trend. By participating in this chat today, you have proven your commitment. Remember, as a parent, you are the strongest influence in your child's life, so continue to take a strong position that you believe your child should never smoke. Please continue to visit www.KeepKidsFromSmoking.com for the latest tips and advice on how to start the conversations early, and to have them often.