Cigarettes and cigars are expensive, potentially deadly but legal drugs. Although many laws exist preventing the sale of tobacco products to minors, teens can still easily get their hands on cigarettes. According to the American Lung Association (ALA), 68% of smokers start smoking as teenagers. The ALA estimates that every day another about 3900 teens smoke their very first cigarette. Of those 3900, 950 will become hooked.
How can you avoid your teen joining these statistics? By being aware of the signs of smoking and taking steps to start the habit before the teen is dependent on nicotine. Teens are smart enough never to smoke in your presence or even when parents are in the home. They do leave other telltale signs, according to Safeguarding Your Teenager from the Dragons of Life: A Parent’s Guide to the Adolescent Years (HCI; 1993).
Increase in Use of Deodorizers and Air Fresheners
Tobacco smoke leaves its very pungent and distinctive odor in fabrics of all kinds, including carpets, bedding, furniture and drapes. In order to mask the odor, teens often cover it up by using excessive amounts of deodorizers, air fresheners, potpourri, incense or aromatherapy products. If the teen drives, then these products would be used in the car as well as in the home.
If you find many empty cans or bottles of deodorizers in the trash, then chances are the teen is using them to cover up smoke odors. If the teen does not have enough money to purchase these air freshening products, then your pantry may always seem to run out of them. The teen may also have windows open more often than usual to help get rid of the smell.
Increase in Use of Mouthwash or Breath Fresheners
Teens who smoke use a lot more toothpaste, breath freshener and mouthwash in order to cover up the smell of smoke in their mouths. Since smoking tends to yellow teeth, teens may use a lot of over the counter teeth whitening products to hide their new habit. If your home is always running out of products like toothpaste, mouthwash or mints, then something is wrong.
There are other problems teens can have other than smoking if they start to use far too much dental care and breath freshening products. These problems include bulimia or being bullied about how their breath smells.
If an adult in your home smokes, that adult needs to pay close attention to how many cigarettes he or she has at any given time. It’s very easy for children and teens to filch a family member’s smokes. If you have friends who smoke, ask them quietly to keep their smokes locked in their cars or to pay attention to where their cigarettes are at all times. A real friend will not mind.
If you hear any news of missing cigarettes from anyone that your ten comes into contact with on a regular basis, such as a coach, teacher or co-worker, then this could be a sign that your teen is the thief.