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Fifteen-Year-Old Addicted to Cigarettes

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: I'm a 15-year-old female who started smoking at age 10. My parents are non-smokers. They don't believe that I can be addicted at my age (but I am).

They grounded me for three months and made me chew and swallow a whole pack of cigarettes. I'm polite about my habit. I take it outside and don't do it in front of my parents.

How do I get them to understand?

A: As you are well aware through your own cigarette addiction, a person of any age, including kids of all ages, can become addicted to cigarettes. Cigarettes contain nicotine, one of the strongest physically addicting substances known. Many smokers use cigarettes as a psycological crutch to calm them down, to lift their spirits, to keep them focused, and to offset boredom. Maybe you also have discovered that cigarettes can suppress your appetite; many girls and women use cigarettes to keep thin.

Your parents making you chew and swallow a pack of cigarettes shows their desperation and total lack of understanding about this addiction. They are punishing you for something you need a lot of help to stop. Usually people stop and start up smoking again three times before they quit for good.

Your parents need to have your addiction explained to them by a health professional, perhaps your pediatrician or family doctor. The American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society, along with many other local (and regional programs and probably the HMO you parents might belong to) have stop-smoking and support groups in your area. Please contact your doctor and speak with her first about talking to your parents. Then take the courageous step to quit and enlist the support of as many family and friends as you can to help you. If you think that your parents would listen to me, have them email me and I will explain the situation to them.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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