Students pose for pictures with "big cigarette models" during a campaign ahead of the World No Tobacco Day, at …
One can completely understand the stress of having to counsel children against unhealthy lifestyle habits; smoking and tobacco consumption being one of the most damaging. The burgeoning trend of impressionable children picking up a cigarette is not really that surprising – the thrill of trying something new, peer pressure, increasing their “cool quotient”, or aping role models – all of this contributes to this habit. What is particularly disturbing is that, despite the networked and knowledge based environment that we live in, many children are still oblivious to the ill effects of smoking,not just on their health but also on their overall lifestyle.

Parents obviously want to protect their children from this habit; at the same time, one cannot really curb their day to day activities or social circle. Therefore, rather than stressing every time yourchild goes to a party, you should proactively counsel thechildand educate him/her about the various ill effects that this habit can have. Here are a few pointers which I think can help parents dissuade their kids from giving in to this habit:

Set a good example – There are no better role models for a child than his parents. You must therefore set an example by not smoking yourself. Take a look around – chances are anyone who you know who smokes, has had a parent who smoked as well. And it is really not very effective when a person who smokes tries to educate another person against it.

Have an open mind – Try to be less of a father and more of a friend to your kids. Do not vilify them if you come to know about their smoking habits. Try to empathize and understand their part of the story. Shouting is seldom effective in such scenarios and instead try and understand why your child took up the habit in the first place. After you get a sense of the root cause, you will be better equipped to tackle the issue and come up with a solution.

Educate them about the ill effects on their health
– sit them down and educate them about the repercussions smoking will have on their health in the long run. Addiction at a young age is difficult to break even as an adult. Cite examples of people you know who gave up smoking or lost the battle against it, make them readanecdotes and blogs on the topic, and ask them what exactly is it doing for them? Can they not find that pleasure or coolness in other activities? Isn’t learning the drums or dancing the salsa cooler?

Show them the bigger picture
– For a teenager, a health threat alone might not be a strong enough factor toquit or refrain from smoking. Therefore, try to paint a larger picture. Tell them about the financial consequences this habit might have on them. Give them a sense of the amount of money they will end up “turning to ashes” and the long term repercussions in terms of paying for health services; for a smoker, life and health insurance products come at a premium and in some cases chronic smokers are denied any insurance at all.Counsel them on how they can put this money to a better and more productive use. Also educate them about passive smoking and how this habit will not only harm them but also their loved ones.

Vices such as smoking and tobacco consumption, if not tackled carefully, can escalate into bigger issues that will impact the future of the child. As parents we should be vigilant, understanding and supportive and do all we can to ensure a healthier future for our children.

The author, Mr. Rishi Piparaiya, is the Director of Marketing and Bancassurance, Aviva India.