Fighting peer pressure

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Encourage children to feel confident in their beliefs and explore ways to deal with peer pressure

Despite advertising bans and much work on educating us about the dangers of nicotine, film and soap stars are still shown smoking, and many children look upon it as ‘cool’. It is ironic that many take up the habit to make themselves appear older, as research shows that smokers in their 30s develop facial wrinkles similar to non-smokers in their 50s, and ‘smoker’s face’ has now entered the dictionary as a medical term. Smokers who ran a half-marathon achieved only the same speed as non-smokers who were twelve years older (see point 9, in ‘Essential facts’, opposite).

Most children are aware of the dangers of smoking, but although they may know the facts, they may be pressured into smoking by peers or older friends, or by an image that they think smoking carries. The two activities which follow, aim to show the disadvantages of smoking, and explore, through role play, the issues surrounding it. Discussing such issues openly will allow children to speak out about their possible mixed feelings on the subject.

Essential facts

  • A report by the Office of Tobacco (November 2006), shows that almost one in six children, between the ages of 12 and 17, smoke. One in six boys, and one in four girls, are regular smokers by the age of 15.
  • Children who smoke are almost four times more likely to develop asthma than those who don’t, and their risk is higher if their mothers smoked when pregnant.
  • More than 90% of child smokers said that they were not asked for identification the last time they purchased cigarettes.
  • Most children said that they got their first cigarette from a friend or sibling, but 15% said that it was given to them by a parent.
  • Children are three times more likely to smoke if their parents do so.
  • Child smokers take far more time off school than non-smokers, with coughs, wheezing and shortness of breath.
  • The earlier a child becomes a regular smoker, the greater the risk of developing lung cancer later in life.
  • Child smokers become addicted to nicotine, the drug in tobacco, very quickly.
  • Research shows that smoking for ten minutes restricts oxygen to the body for almost one hour. It also causes wounds to heal more slowly.
  • Smoking causes cancers, heart diseases and respiratory problems.
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