Helping Teens Rise Above the Pressure and Avoid Tobacco Use

Staying healthy is a top priority for teen athletes. Their athletic performance is impacted by several factors like training and practicing, eating nutritious meals and getting a good night’s rest. However, the use of smokeless tobacco is on the rise among teen athletes, which can go against all of their healthy habits.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there has been an increase in the amount of teen athletes who use smokeless tobacco products like snuff or chewing tobacco. In data provided by Youth Risk Behavior Surveys, 11 percent of high school athletes use smokeless tobacco products (almost twice the rate of high school non-athletes).

While many teens are aware of the negative effects of smoking cigarettes, some don’t think that using smokeless tobacco has the same negative consequences. This is not the case. It has been proven that smokeless tobacco can lead to:

  • Nicotine addiction
  • Cancer of the mouth, esophagus and pancreas
  • Increased risk for death from heart disease and stroke

For many, tobacco use begins in adolescence and peer pressure can cause many teens to pick up the habit that continues into adulthood. Teen athletes may feel even greater pressure to use tobacco to “fit in” with members of their teams. That’s why it is important for parents to help their kids choose to “quit the nic” before they even start. Here are a few tips for helping your teen rise above the peer pressure:

  • Understand your teen’s world. Connect with your teen about the pressures they may be facing with their friends or teammates, and help them understand that you’ve experienced the same thing when you were their age.
  • Educate them about the consequences. Whether it’s bad breath, discolored teeth or something more serious like disease of the mouth, ensure that they understand that tobacco use of any form has negative effects.
  • Bring it close to home. When communicating with your teen, incorporate stories of loved ones who have been affected by tobacco use.
  • Anticipate and rehearse. Help your teen prepare for how they will handle and respond to high-pressure situations where tobacco is involved. Even try role playing to make it more real for them.
  • Don’t give up. If your teen has already started using tobacco, remind them that you support them and that it is never too late to quit. Here are five helpful steps that can help them kick the habit.

For more information about tobacco use, its health effects and tips for quitting, check out the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan “Quit the Nic” page and these blogs:

Photo credit: Jackie

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