[twitter]My wife’s dad was a pharmaceutical salesmen when she was growing up. Through the formative teen years she’d come downstairs for breakfast to find pharmaceutical journals alongside her cereal. The journals were strategically opened to pages featuring smoker’s lungs. Black, clotted, disgusting.
“Good morning, Jenna!,” her dad would cheerily greet her as her stomach turned over from looking at the pictures.
It was her dad’s not-so subtle way of explaining to his daughter what would happen to her body if she smoked. She never did.
My friend Michelle has no children over own, but has a few nieces and nephews. As each entered their tween years, Michelle entered into a bet with them. Michelle put up a $1000 bond for their education should they make it to high school graduation without smoking.
In 1994 45% of youth in grades 6 to 9 (that’s 12 – 16 yrs old) had admitted to trying smoking at least once. That would have been enough to lose Michelle’s bet. By 2012 the rate had dropped to 24% with the average age of a kid trying their first, entire cigarette being 13 and a half.
My oldest son just turned 8 last month and we’re getting on the education plan early; with a little help from school. For career day in kindergarten, one of the parents (a doctor) came in and talked to them about the body and what happens to our bodies when we smoke.
“She showed us a fake body and the lungs were all black,” my son recalls. “And then we got to see the inside of a heart!!”
The foundation was laid. He knows what happens to your body when you smoke, we just needed to incentivize it. I borrowed Michelle’s idea and made a $1000 bet with each of my boys. Don’t smoke, don’t do drugs, and when you graduate high school there’s $1000 waiting for you.
I’m not naive enough to think that once my kids get out on their own things might go sideways, but if I can give them that strength through the daring days where peer pressure starts, I’m one step ahead of the game.