Between social and academic stress, hormonal changes, and increased responsibility, it's not surprising that at some point, most teens will seek out a form of stress relief that's stronger than a cup of chamomile tea. For some, hanging out with friends or listening to music is enough; however, many others turn to less positive alternatives, like smoking cigarettes.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 17.2 percent of high school students are smokers and more than 80 percent of adult smokers picked up the habit before the age of 18. Similarly, a survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that each day, approximately 3,450 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 smoke their first cigarette--850 of whom become daily cigarette smokers. With teens busy with school and extracurricular activities for most of the day, it's often difficult for parents to keep track of their behavior.
If you discover your teen has started smoking, stay calm. Be supportive and help guide them through the quitting process.
Exercise and Smoking Cessation Study
According to a 2011 study published in the medical journal Pediatrics, adding exercise to your teen's daily routine may be a great way to encourage them to kick their smoking habit. To test the efficacy of exercise on teen smoking cessation, study facilitators added exercise to the Not On Tobacco (NOT) program's curriculum in several schools in West Virginia. NOT, the American Lung Association's smoking cessation program tailored for high school students, is currently offered at high schools throughout the United States and has resulted in an average quit rate of 21 percent.
The original program didn't include an exercise component, but previous research suggested that exercise has the ability to ease withdrawal symptoms and reduce the intensity of cravings in adult smokers trying to quit. To test this theory, researchers provided a group of NOT participants with exercise advice and a pedometer to monitor their daily activity levels. After six months, the group was found to have had a 31 percent quit rate--a full 10 percent higher than the rate reported by the group who hadn't incorporated exercise into their program.
While the addition of exercise proved more helpful in encouraging the male participants to quit, it also increased the female quit percentage by a small margin. Exercise is also a healthy addition to any lifestyle that's a positive step toward better long-term health. In addition to exercise, there are other ways to encourage your teen to quit.
1. Educate your teen about the health consequences of smoking.
While most teens are aware of the long-term risks of smoking such as heart disease and lung cancer, many aren't as familiar with the immediate health consequences. Smoking can reduce the rate of lung growth, cause shortness of breath, and hinder athletic performance. In addition, cigarette smoking can increase teens' resting heart rates by two to three beats per minute, and cause early symptoms of heart disease and stroke in adolescents. Sharing these facts may help them make an informed decision about quitting.
2. Break down the monetary cost of smoking.
While a teen smoking habit might initially develop by occasionally bumming cigarettes off friends, once it turns into an addiction, it can get expensive. Sit down with your teen and calculate the weekly, monthly, and annual cost of smoking regularly. When they see that they're smoking away money that could pay for a car or traveling, they might be motivated to quit.
3. Stay positive.
Finding out that your teen has developed a smoking habit can be upsetting, but it's more important to help motivate them to quit than to scold them for poor choices. Help your teen find a smoking cessation method that will work for them and be there when they need support or distraction from a craving. With your positive influence, your teen has a much better chance of quitting smoking and living a healthy life.