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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mommy Don't Smoke - I Don't Want You to Die

When my son was nine, and I was getting divorced, I started smoking cigarettes again. I had not smoked for a long time and I am fortunately one of those people who doesn’t easily get addicted to them. I know I am lucky in that regard, and that it is rare.

My son was in fourth grade at the time, and he and his younger sister saw smoking as something that could take their mother away from them.

So my son sat me down at the computer and showed me what he’d been learning about smoking cigarettes in school. He went on the American Lung Association site and showed me a healthy lung, pointing out its color, texture, hue, etc. Then he showed me a coal miner’s lung, pointing out the dark spots, black hues, and hints of disease.

Finally he showed me a cigarette smoker’s lung, and said “See mom, it’s the worst of all.”

I’d like to be able to say that this was my ah ha moment, the one in which I threw the cigarettes out and never touched them again, but that’s not the case. It took me awhile to stop smoking, and I was badgered by my children until I did. My daughter who was in early elementary school would cry and say “Mommy I don’t want you to die.”

My point in all of this is that anti-tobacco campaigns work. They make an impression on young minds. I know my children will never smoke and I know that most of their friends won’t either. That doesn't mean other kids don't and we shouldn't be vigilant.

But the anti-smoking education appears to work far better, in my limited world, than anti-drug and alcohol efforts.  It starts young and it scares kids. It uses science and visuals to drive home the point that smoking has no benefits and many dangers. The anti-smoking campaigns don't send mixed messages at all. If you smoke, you die. It's pretty straightforward and kids are listening.

How do we take that approach and apply it to alcohol or drugs?  Science helps. So does connecting with other parents struggling with similar issues. Visit our Facebook page and join the conversation

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