Follow Up Friday: smoking around children

Published: Nov. 13, 2023 at 3:08 PM EST
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PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (WAGM) - Kids are told about the dangers of smoking starting in elementary school, but this does not always stop them from picking the habit. According to the CDC, over 6% of middle schoolers use tobacco products, and this rate doubles when they reach high school age.

With evolving nicotine technologies that target children, such as the vape, we must ask what contributes to kids smoking habits. According to healthcare experts, what happens in the home plays a big role.

“Children who have one or both parents who smoke are susceptible to bronchitis, asthma, phenomena, or other health issues,” says Jennifer Bartlett, an RN and Smoking Cessation Facilitator at Northern Light AR Gould.

Children can develop these health risks due to the secondhand smoke in the home. Even if parents avoid smoking in the home their kids are still at risk, according to Bartlett. “Parents will sometimes smoke outside their home but now that the colder weather is coming along they move either into a covered porch or a space right off the front door, so what happens - the door opens, and smoke comes in, and even a small amount of second-hand smoke is dangerous,” Bartlett explains.

In addition to increased health risks, kids who have parents that smoke are also more likely to become smokers themselves. “Children are going to do what they see their parents doing,” Bartlett continues.

Although these risks have been a problem for decades, recent years have brought around a new concern - the vape. “Kids turn to vaping to manage anxiety and stress,” Bartlett elaborates, “and what they’re actually doing is creating chemical pathways in their brains that tell them, ‘you need to vape in order to manage your anxiety and stress,’ and that’s just not true.”

The flavors of vapes make them appealing for kids, not to mention the fact that they’re easy to hide. “It is very easy to conceal vape-type products,” Bartlett informs. “Any quick internet search will show you vapes that look like highlighters that would be very easy to overlook in a child’s jacket or their backpack. I as a parent would not even take a second glance at those types of things.”

The earlier people start using tobacco products the worse it will be for their health, according to Bartlett. “We are actually seeing people in their late 30s and early 40s with negative effects related to smoking, second-hand smoke exposure, or vape. And that’s concerning - it used to be something that you’d see in folks in later life, but where kids are starting smoking earlier we’re seeing those issues earlier,” says Bartlett.

Although there are many contributing factors to the increase in kids who are addicted to tobacco products, the best way to minimize your kids’ risk of addiction is to avoid smoking altogether, or at least avoid smoking around kids.