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Why is a program like this so important for parents?
Dr. Popkin: Parents of teens are often so worried about
the risks of alcohol and other drugs that smoking sometimes
flies under their radar. The ‘Talk Early, Talk Often’
program not only raises parental awareness about the risks
of smoking, but gives concrete information about how parents
can actively help their kids choose not to smoke.
Why do kids smoke?
Dr. Popkin: Kids smoke for a variety of reasons. Some
do it to act grown-up, others smoke to rebel. I would
say that the most common reason though is that kids who
smoke often begin smoking to fit in with a peer group
who thinks that smoking is cool. Of course, once kids
get hooked, they smoke because they crave smoking and
find it very difficult to stop.
Why is it necessary to take a different approach
when speaking with younger kids versus older kids?
Dr. Popkin: Younger kids are more easily influenced by
the health risks involved with smoking. As they get older,
they already know about these risks, but enter a stage
where they don’t think it will happen to them. During
these teen and preteen years parents need to focus on
issues that are more relevant to their kids, plus let
them know what the consequences for smoking will be at
At what age should parents start to talk with
their kids about smoking?
Dr. Popkin: It is almost never too early. Even with a
young child, making comments like, “oh, yucky”
when you and your child see someone smoking, you can begin
to make an impact on their beliefs. We know that kids
as young as 8 are being offered cigarettes, so by 7 or
8 you can be having short talks with your kids about the
reasons you don’t want them to smoke.
What are some effective ways to talk with younger
(ages 6-8) kids about smoking?
Dr. Popkin: Let them know that you love them and want
them to grow up healthy and strong, and that smoking can
hurt them and make them weaker. That’s why you don’t
hear about good athletes smoking.