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The current age of a new smoker is 13. Could your kids be tempted to start?

keep your kids from smoking

As parents, we want our children to grow up safe and healthy. We do our best to protect them from things that may cause them harm. However, many in the Hudson Valley and across New York State may not realize a potential threat to their children - tobacco marketing that occurs at the point of sale where our children shop.

There are billions of dollars of tobacco promotions in places where children can see them, such as convenience stores, many of which are located near schools. Research shows stores popular among adolescents contain almost three times more tobacco marketing
materials compared with other stores in the same community.

Young people are almost twice as likely as adults to recall tobacco promotions, and the more ads they see, the more likely they are to start smoking at an early age, which can cause detrimental health issues that include impaired lung growth, respiratory symptoms and asthma-related symptoms.

Do you know what your tween is up to?

The current average age of a new smoker is 13 years old, and 90 percent of adult smokers say they first tried smoking by age 18. The U.S. Surgeon General calls smoking a "pediatric epidemic" and says, "Advertising and promotional activities by tobacco companies have been shown to cause the onset and continuation of smoking among adolescents and young adults."

But it doesn't have to be that way. Youth in the Hudson Valley region have seen enough tobacco marketing, and it's time we take action to minimize the impact it can have on kids in our community. Through the statewide "Seen Enough Tobacco" campaign, community members can take a stand and help raise awareness to safeguard children from tobacco promotions in places where they can see them.

The Seen Enough Tobacco campaign uses videos, social media, digital advertising and other support materials that describe children's encounters with tobacco promotions in stores. Provocative images creatively and absurdly combine cigarettes with common children's items, like crayons, a birthday cake, a crib mobile and an ice cream truck, in scenarios that are grabbing the attention of parents and community members across the state.

READ MORE: 10 tips for a healthier teen

Join the pledge          
If you want to get involved, encourage your family, friends and neighbors to join more than 20,000 others throughout the state who have pledged their support at SeenEnoughTobacco.org. You can also join the conversation on social media by using #SeenEnoughTobacco and visiting the Tobacco Free New York State Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.

Right here in the Hudson Valley, Tobacco Free Action Communities (TFAC) in Ulster, Dutchess and Sullivan Counties is working toward a tobacco free future for our community and helping to make the Hudson Valley a healthier place to live, work and play - even kids are getting involved! Through our local youth action program called Reality Check, we're educating youth in the Hudson Valley to become agents of change, giving them the knowledge and tools to create impactful tobacco awareness in the community.

From visiting with their state elected officials to testifying at local legislative meetings, Reality Check members are able to share how they feel targeted by the tobacco industry through community activism and delivering their message at community events and rallies, including demonstrating outside a national pharmacy chain's annual meeting to encourage shareholders to divest from tobacco and stand for health. If these dedicated and passionate youth are any indication, our future is in good hands as they continue to work toward becoming the first tobacco free generation.

READ MORE: Recognizing and preventing teen dating violence


Start the conversation

Not sure where to start when talking to your own children about the dangers of smoking?

Here are some tips from the American Lung Association to help you start the conversation:
• Start telling children at age 5 or 6 that you do not want them to smoke - keep your messages clear and consistent.

• Emphasize both the health dangers and undesirable physical consequences, such as discolored teeth and bad breath.

• Set an example by not smoking - parents who smoke are more likely to have children who smoke.

• If you are currently a smoker, explain to your kids how difficult it is to quit, and never light up around them - a smoke-free policy at home is ideal.

• If your children have friends who smoke, talk to them about ways they can say "no" if they are pressured to smoke.

• Teens that start smoking may want to be accepted into a friend group or may seek your attention. Talking about the changes your teen can make to stop smoking is a step in the right direction.

If you and your family are interested in getting involved with TFAC and/or Reality Check, call us at 845-943-6070 or email us at info@tobaccofreeactioncommunities.org.


Ellen Reinhard is the Director of Tobacco Free Action Communities (TFAC) in Ulster, Dutchess and Sullivan Counties. Her background in community outreach, mobilization and health communications has helped her in establishing and maintaining contact with the community, businesses, lawmakers and local professionals in order to promote TFAC's mission in the fight against tobacco.

Diane Moore is the TFAC Reality Check lead. Her focus on youth advocacy and public health has been a strong foundation for her work with youth in the fight against tobacco.


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