As children grow, their view of the world changes. As these changes occur, children pass through stages in their awareness and use of tobacco. A variety of factors can lead to tobacco use and to regular smoking among youth.
By being aware of the potential risk factors for tobacco use, you can be better prepared to support healthy tobacco-free choices for your children. This section provides strategies and tips that you can use at various stages of your child's development, in order to help them steer clear of smoking.
6 Years Old and Under: Children begin to form their attitudes and beliefs about tobacco at an early age. Be aware that the people your child sees on a daily basis will influence their perception of the world around them and shape their attitudes and beliefs about tobacco.
7 to 11 Years Old: Up until they are about 7, most Canadian children do not experiment with tobacco, but they may be exposed to older youth and family members who smoke or use chewing tobacco. However, by the time they are about 10 or 11, they begin to move toward the stage of experimenting with tobacco.
12 to 14 Years Old: Youth may have moved from experimenting with tobacco to occasional use (i.e. on weekends or at a party) by this age. This is also the age when youth start to test their parental authority and it is an extremely risky time for smoking to start. Peer pressure begins to build at this stage and it is quite possible that your child will have friends who smoke.
15 to 19 Years Old: The period between 15-19 years is a critical time for young people who are most at risk for taking up smoking. Fortunately, recent Canadian statistics show that the percentage of youth aged 15-19 who smoke is decreasing. While this is encouraging, it's important to note that over half of smokers have tried their first whole cigarette by age 15, and 90% of smokers have smoked their first whole cigarette by age 19.