In most states, it is illegal for children to purchase cigarettes before the age of 18. Despite this, many pre-teens and adolescents find a way to obtain and smoke cigarettes.
Dr. Joshua Freedman, pediatric pulmonologist with Marshfield Clinic Health System, said this age group often begins smoking because friends or family members around them are smoking. Stress and boredom may be other reasons a pre-teen or adolescent may begin smoking.
Side effects of smoking
Like adults, smoking as a pre-teen or adolescent can cause many health concerns including:
- An increased risk of lung cancer in the future
- Developing asthma or worsening its symptoms
- Respiratory infections
Unlike adults, cognitive functioning also can be affected when this age group smokes.
“Their brains are still developing, so smoking has cognitive effects on their brain,” Freedman said.
These cognitive effects include an increased risk for ADHD and other cognitive issues.
Prone to e-cigarettes
Many pre-teens and adolescents first smoke e-cigarettes because they know smoking is bad for them.
E-cigarettes tend to be attractive to kids who have never smoked before because of the dangers of smoking and thinking e-cigarettes will be safer despite them not really being any safer,” said Freedman.
Research has shown that if someone is using e-cigarettes, they are more likely to transition to cigarettes. E-cigarettes also still have nicotine, which is the addictive part of a cigarette.
While research is still being conducted on e-cigarettes, researchers have found that they have fewer toxins than cigarettes.
Helping to quit smoking
When you try to help a pre-teen or adolescent quit smoking, it is really important to make sure they are in a place where they are ready to quit.
“When they are ready to accept that they need to make the change to quit, that is when you can provide them with ways to quit,” Freedman said.
You can help your child figure out why they smoke while quitting. This will help them find a substitute for that reason. For instance, some like to have something in their hand, while others smoke because their friends are doing it.
Talk to your child’s pediatrician to help decide which medications and patches might help with their cravings to smoke.
If you are looking for more information about pre-teen and adolescent smoking, talk to your child’s pediatrician.