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Smokers: Quit now, for kids
For kids' sake, resolve to stop smoking.

Date published: 1/14/2007

IKNOW IT SEEMS a little late for New Year's resolutions, but it's never too late to start getting healthy. I think I've had the resolution to exercise more and lose the Christmas fat every year for the past 30 or so. The holidays are always good for getting people off track because of the parties, the stress, the extra food, and the shopping. So now we're all back into our regular routines, and it's time to get back on track.

The American Academy of Pediatrics releases a list of suggested resolutions for parents every year. Lately, with all the kids I've seen in the office or admitted to the hospital for wheezing, I've seen a lot of smoking parents. And that's given me the opportunity to review one of the AAP resolutions--"provide your child with a tobacco-free environment"--every day.

I've also seen some teens lately who smoke (actually, I'm sure I've seen more kids who smoke than I realize). When I see a young teen who smokes, more than 90 percent of the time one of the parents smokes. This makes it seem acceptable to the child, and it gives them easy access to cigarettes.

As we all know, kids love to imitate us. It doesn't matter how many times I told my kids not to say bad words, when my 2-year-old said "Damn it!" when something fell down in a store, I knew where it came from. It's the same thing with smoking.

I think the vast majority of smokers know it's a bad habit, and many want to quit. When I ask smoking parents if they want their kids to smoke, they almost always say no. (For those rare ones who say they don't care, I know there's no hope.) Smokers do tell their kids not to smoke, but "do as I say, not as I do" doesn't work with teens.

Honestly, I have to laugh when I have a mother say, "Tell my daughter to stop smoking," and I can smell the smoke in the room. I used to be more diplomatic, but as I get older I'm more apt to be blunt. Now my response is, "She won't quit until you do."

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DR. ROXANNE ALLEGRETTI is a pediatrician with Preferred Pediatrics in Fredericksburg.