My Toddler Thinks Smoking Is Cool

Catherine Crawford
9

Lately, my mind has been fixated on smoking. I’m sure a lot of it has to do with the recent improbable addicts in the news, including the toddler who smokes smoked a pack a day and this smoking puppy in China. As weird as those stories are, they aren’t the source of my preoccupation. What’s been harassing my psyche is the image embedded in my brain of my 4-year-old pretending that a chopstick was a cigarette.

I don’t ever want her to smoke, and I’m beginning to think I need to start working harder on that right now.

Although I am no puritan, my children are rarely around cigarettes. In fact, at my daughter’s birthday party in the park over the summer, cake time was delayed for at least 15 minutes while we hunted down a match. My 6-year-old is so petrified of the habit that I had to have a little talk with her about tact when I saw her approaching adults, suggesting they quit. She really thought she was saving their lives. After I explained to her that some people became addicted to cigs before they knew it was so bad for them and how now they can’t seem to stop, she said, “Oh, so smoking for grown-ups is like what Chuck-E-Cheese is to little kids.” That seemed about right. But no! It’s not the same! 

I want my children to have respect for their elders, and not be little snotty know-it-alls who tell grown-ups what to do, but I also really want them to NEVER SMOKE. It’s complicated. We just returned from visiting family out of state. Part of that family is a beloved aunt, and the only person my children are close to who (openly) smokes. My older daughter worries incessantly about this aunt, while at the same time my youngest tries to imitate her. This makes things tricky when preparing my anti-smoking speeches. If they are too hard, my 1st grader frets (and frets and frets that her aunt is going to die), but I feel like I need to be severe to get the message out to my little one. I believe that she already thinks it’s cool. Last time we passed a group of smoking teens, she looked at me and gave a little giggle. She’s 4 years old!

Sometimes, I don’t blame her. After any given episode of Mad Men I find myself jonesing for a cig.  

In high school, there were very few holdouts who didn’t smoke among my friends. Of the two that I remember, one was promised a car by her father when she turned 18 if she never smoked, and the other was promised $2,000 for the same feat. I never knew either of them to take the chance. Maybe, instead of (in addition to?) the college fun, I should start the anti-smoking account. Looks like I'm going to need it.

Are you worried about your kids smoking? How do you teach them about the dangers?


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