How can parents and society keep kids from smoking? One way is to
make sure that merchants know they'll get in trouble if they sell
cigarettes to minors. That can cut by 21 percent the odds that a 10th
grader will become a daily smoker. And that's good news, because the
earlier a person starts smoking, the more likely he or she will be
hooked for life.
Public-health advocates have been trying for years to figure out how
best to keep children and teens from taking up the cigarette habit.
It's often hard to determine what works and why. Banning sales to
minors doesn't work unless the bans are enforced, more is needed to be done to keep kids
from starting to smoke because it is hard as it is for patients who
smoke to quit.
Parents have power over how well the ban on selling cigarettes to
kids is enforced, because much of the enforcement is at
the local level, from the police and local health department. "They get
pushback from the merchants," he says. "If they're getting kudos from
parents on how great they're doing, they will make a greater effort."
But tough enforcement is not the only thing that works to prevent
teen smoking. For instance, the increasing price of cigarettes reduced
daily smoking by 47 percent over the same 1997-to-2003 period, the new
study's authors found. Antismoking restaurant policies and advertising
campaigns against tobacco helped, too. The new study is the first to
separate the effect of enforcing a ban on sales from these other
factors. Banning sales helps over time, says DiFranza, because younger
children see fewer older kids smoking. Teenage smoking declined by half
between 1997 and 2003.
But this doesn't mean that parents are off the hook. The biggest
predictor of whether a kid will smoke is whether Mom and Dad do. If
there was ever a good reason to quit, this is it, noting that tobacco causes more health problems and early deaths than
all illegal drugs combined. It's full of good arguments against
smoking, for kids and grown-ups alike.
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