Well, I shall start today with an epic conversation, between S and M - I think A and B are too common ;)
M: I want to organize a campaign in order to reduce the number of children smoker.
M: The number of smokers, including children are increasing.
S: What would this campaign be?
M: It would be a kind of awareness to the hazard of smoking, both for active and passive smoker.
S: How are you going to organize it?
M: Well, we could make a long march with a proper banner and make a non-smoking day event. We would ask the companies to reduce their marketing and advertising campaign.
S: Oh, so you mean you want people to live healthy life by not smoking?
M: Yes, of course.
S: You have the authority. Why don't you just simply close all the tobacco companies?
M: It's not possible. The tax they are paying is crucial for the country.
S: So, you want the monetary benefit, but you don't want the after effect of that?
OK, that conversation is out of the topic. It is beyond our control. Now, as parents and teachers, we see that underage children are holding cigarettes and start puffing even in the public places at times. There has been quite many concerns all over the world that the number of children smokers are increasing.
|Source: Kid Smoking (Can't help but notice the God Father posters behind)|
What is the reason for this?
If we start making reasons, there would be myriad, but major reasons that make a child become a smoker are as follows:
- Habit from Home. Most habits start at home. If a child sees his father or mother smokes, there is a huge chance that he would smoke too. The parent may ask them not to smoke the way they did, but action speaks louder than words. If as parents, you could show them that you are living a healthy life, that would be the best example you could have ever given to your children.
- Peer Pressure. This happens when your child befriend with other smokers. Usually happens among young adults or teenagers. Those who smokes would say things in order to make the non-smokers become smokers. They would say things like "You are not a man if you don't smoke" or "You smoke once, it would bring you to a different new world" or "If you don't smoke, you are not accepted in our group". Teens are sensitive. They are the group of people who are starting to find themselves and to position themselves in the society and hence, the feeling of being accepted (other than at home) is an important issue for them. They would do anything in order to be accepted, including taking the offer to smoke. That is the fragile moment.
- Ridiculous Advertising. Have you noticed the ads for tobacco? They show macho cowboys handling horses skillfully. To be honest, it looks sexy, though. They show a high-rank tall-dark-handsome executive wearing a suit that looks as if it cost a fortune, relaxing and showing the masculinity of being a man. They show an off-road adventurers with rippling muscles with their mud-covered jeep. They show strong & handsome young man doing cliff-climbing and stands at the top of the cliff telling the world that he did it. ALL those stunts are showing them as men with identity of smokers of certain brands. NOW, do you think all that is because 'CIGAR' or 'CIGARETTE'? Come on.. Seriously.. Who are they kidding? They are kidding the kids. The young boys who see that kind of advertisement find themselves to imitate that masculinity, that elegance, that power of being a man. They haven't realized that in order to do all the stunts that tobacco advertising actors are doing, they have to have perfect lungs - which is impossible if they smoke.
- Judging Parents. Most young adults have this transition phase we call puberty. They would behave abnormally, they would shout back at their parents, and they would try to create their own identity. Some parents, instead of being supportive, they would become judgmental. This make things worse. When these young adults find that they are not safe at home for they are "judged", they seek comfort externally. AND most of the time, they would end up in the wrong lane. Not only tobacco, but also drugs, alcohol, unsafe free sex, and vandalism.
NOW, that is the reality. You can't change the external factors. But you have to realize, while some teens could survive the Peer Pressure, the Ridiculous Advertising, why others can't? What is the problem? The problem could vary, because every human is designed differently. Different temper, different perspective, different comprehension level, different upbringing, different spiritual level, etc. Hence, I get back to the core. As parents and teachers, how could we try to minimize this negative ambiance when it reaches our children?
How to deal with it?
It is not an easy job, but with a bit of patience and determination, I am sure we could get through.
- Introduce Healthy Way of Living at Home. When I say introduce healthy way of living at home, I do not limit only by "not smoking". What I mean is the overall living condition - hygiene, proper sanitation system, proper ventilation, proper sports activities, and the most important, proper food choice. Whatever you do, if your food choice is terrible, you would end up with cholesterol, cancer, and all the new diseases that the scientists are trying to give name to.
- Home Education. I am not talking about home-schooling. I am talking about the paradigm that parents should try to imbue in their children from the very early age. Home education is the most important aspect for the growth of children. There are many things that school nowadays do not teach. As parents, it's your job to create an awareness of the environment. Starting from making them understand the value of standing their own ground, being not easily bullied or influenced, etc. You have to be transparent. Some parents are scared to talk some sensitive topics like drugs, free sex, etc. But which one is more scary? Seeing your children end up knowing it from experience and outside world, or from you? I prefer it's safer when it comes from you. Make some slides, give them an interesting and motivating presentation regarding the sensitive issues. Ask them to read some books which educate them in those issues. Make them feel included in the safety of the family. Make them feel and understand deeply that they are the main actors who are responsible for their own safety and their own well-being, not others. AND warning. They might confront you back. If it happens, do not charge them. Let them release their tantrum. Talk later and be always supportive. I know you would be frustrated to be confronted back, but trust me, charging them would not make anything better. Patience is virtue. At the end of the day, whatever they do, they have to get back to you, so do not create a fear for them to return to you. Make them feel, that no matter what happens, you would always have warm arms to calm them down and help them out of their own issues.
- Monitor Your Children's Friends' Circle. I have seen many parents who do not care whom their children befriend with. They never ask their children their friends' names. They simply don't care. Please don't be this kind of parents. You must know whom your children are dealing with outside your home. It doesn't mean that you hire a detective and make a list. Ask your children. Ask them "Whom did you play with today?" or "Tell me your school story today?". Invite your children's friends home once a while to simply have a playing party at your home. Get to know them. I remember one incident with my mom. I told her "I am going to this place with this person" (I tell her my friend's name) and her response is "I never heard you mention that name. Who is she? Why suddenly you have to go with her?". I was 26 when she asked me that question. I don't feel that she is limiting my move. I don't hate her for having the necessity of telling her every single move I am making, because I know for sure that she is asking me that question for my own safety. She has the right to know what is happening in her daughter's life. Of course, you can't know everything, but at least make an attempt. Make sure you have this kind of awareness. Make sure your presence means something in front of your children's friends. You are their parents, anyway!
- Spend Quality Time with Your Children. Children who grow up without any quality time with their parents have the tendency to be influenced by the unfiltered outside world. Let them know that you would be there when they need someone to turn to. Spend some time with them at the end of the day. Let them know your point of view in certain issues. Tell them some stories which have values (It shouldn't be bed-time stories though). Let them know what kind of legacy you have carried from your parents. Play together. Support each other. Love your spouse. A child is always happy to see their parents happy with each other.
NOW, as a teacher, what could you do?
- Create a Regular Awareness Program. As teachers, it may not much you could do, but you could help in creating an awareness program of the hazard of smoking. Biology class or Health and Physical Education class would be the right places to start.
- Do Not Be Ignorant. At times, as a teacher who is standing in front of the class, you could well translate every mood that you are facing. If you see anomalies in the pattern of one of your students in regular basis, like too dull all the time, sleepy all the time, not focus, too laid back, hyperactive, using abusive language, then it's time for you to take action. You could approach that student directly and ask if he/she would like to talk. If it doesn't work, then call his/her parents. Talk to them. If you don't do this, you are ignoring your chance to assist, which is the main job of a teacher.
Well, it has been a quite long one. But reducing the statistics of child smokers is not an easy job. It takes a series of serious actions. Do the best you could and hopefully a better community could be created and the statistics of child smokers could be reduced. Amin!