Q. How can a parent persuade a teenager not to smoke cigarettes?
A. Dr. Moshe Ephrat, president of the Long Island Ear, Nose and Throat Society, addresses this question with teens every year when he visits high schools to talk about November's Great American Smokeout.
Here is his advice:
--Let teens know they are disappointing you if they smoke. "Be very aggressive in saying no."
--Don't smoke yourself. "It sends mixed signals."
--Empower them with knowledge -- for instance, that cigarettes contain formaldehyde, used to embalm bodies. Let them know they would be inhaling known carcinogens that may not affect them today, but will accumulate down the road.
--Give them anecdotes of family members or others they know who have suffered because of smoking. "When you're a teenager you feel so invincible. 'I'm not going to die till I'm 60. It's far away.'" Ephrat, who practices at ENT and Allergy Associates in Lake Success, has, for instance, taken care of a smoker younger than 40 who has had to have her voice box removed.
--Shoot down myths, such as "If I smoke, I'll lose weight."
--Point out smoking is a smelly habit, he says. Remind them it can cause coughing and a higher risk of developing asthma.
--If they already smoke, give them tools to quit. Urge them to do physical activity to reduce cravings. A doctor can prescribe medication to help. For more information, call the state hotline 1-866-NYQUITS.