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How To Reach The Child Who Smokes

We all know cigarettes can kill, but when ABC anchorman Peter Jennings succumbed to lung cancer Aug. 7, that point was brought painfully home. It's something we have to talk to our kids about, because most smokers actually started when they were teens.

First of all, what's the attraction? The Early Show national correspondent Tracy Smith reports on that question. Then, The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm talks to child psychologist Robin Goodman.

Tracy Smith introduces viewers to Monesha Atkins, 17, who has a mom who smokes. Now, Monesha smokes, too, even though she says she doesn't even really like the way it smells.

Monesha adds, "Parents are always like, 'Why do you smoke?' We smoke because you smoke, and we see you smoke."

Monesha also says smoking makes her look more grown up and makes her feel older, too.

She notes, "I can't do the things I used to do. I used to run around and play with my nieces and nephews. And I can't really do that anymore, because I get out of breath quick."

So now, Monesha's got a mantra: "I'm going to quit. I want to quit. I'm going to quit."

But as so many smokers know, the hard part is making that refrain a reality.

Child psychologist Robin Goodman has some tips on how parents can talk to kids about smoking, as well as some hard statistics:

  • 80 to 90 percent of adults who smoke started before they were 18
  • 18 percent of teenagers smoked at least one cigarette before they were 13 years old, 9 percent smoked one by age 11 and some tried it before age 8
  • The younger they start, the more likely they are to become addicted.
  • About 75 percent of children ages 11 to 17 don't smoke because their parents don't approve. Kids care about what their parents do, and pre-teens are more influenced by parents than they are by their friends.
  • More than 4,400 kids become regular smokers every day.
  • Children with three or more friends who smoke are "10 times more likely to smoke than those with no friends who smoke," and 64 percent got their first cigarette from a friend.
  • Having an older brother or sister who smokes triples a child's odds of smoking.
  • Students engaged in structured after-school programs such as sports or clubs have lower risk of regular smoking.
  • Kids whose parents talk to them regularly about not smoking are less likely to smoke, even if their parents smoke.
  • Teens who talk to their parents when they first have problems are less likely to become regular smokers.
  • Children of parents who smoke are twice as likely to smoke, and parents who smoke may not be as sensitive to signs that their children are smoking (like how they smell).