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Tips for Tobacco-Free Kids

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Can't imagine your kid lighting up? No one can. But the truth is that most kids who try smoking take their first puff between ages 11 and 13, and the earlier they start, the more likely they are to get hooked, says Dawn Wiatrek, Ph.D., director of Public Health Strategy for the American Cancer Society. Here are ways to keep your kid smoke-free:

1 Miranda Cosgrove and Eli Manning Don't Smoke

Since kids tend to think more people smoke than really do, start by emphasizing that smoking is not the norm. Point out celebs or athletes she likes who don't smoke, so she'll see it's not a “cool” habit.

2 Yellow Teeth Aren't Pretty

“One or two cigarettes is all it takes to start a lifelong addiction,” says Wiatrek. So it's important to explain how smoking will impact your child's lifestyle immediately and down the road. Start with what she can most relate to—how smoking negatively affects her appearance (yellow teeth and nails, wrinkles, a nasty odor to her hair and clothes) and the activities and sports she loves (decreased energy and performance, frequent illness, persistent cough).

3 Put It in Writing

If you catch your kid smoking, you might feel disciplinary action is in order.

But this may cause her to rebel further, says Wiatrek. So outline the consequences with a smoke-free contract before she's tempted. In this verbal or written agreement, you and your child agree to certain incentives for not smoking (maybe an iTunes gift card or a video game) and specific punishments for breaking the contract (such as no computer for a week).

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