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Talking to a student about smoking... (Read 276 times)

mab411


Proboscis Colossus

    I teach band at a small, rural school in Texas.

     

    So, a couple weeks ago, one of my senior students' mom came to me with a concern...she's discovered that her son has taken up smoking.  She's had multiple discussions and arguments with him, but it sounds like he's gearing up into "I'm 18, I'll do what I want" mode with her.

     

    I know a common opinion of this situation is going to be that, as a teacher, it's not really my place to stick my nose in this kind of business...as long as he's not doing it during school events (which, to my knowledge, he isn't).

     

    However, in the small, rural school situation, there is some overlap there.  I don't know, it may be the same in bigger schools too, but especially with students from broken homes that don't have much of a father figure around, the band director/coach/teacher often sort of falls into that role, whether he likes it or not (the same often happens with women teachers, it's just that the absent parent is more often the father).  And indeed, my student's mom pointed out that he does view me in that way.  There is an older brother in the kid's life, but that's apparently an issue in itself - the older brother really doesn't want much to do with him, which really troubles my student.  She didn't mention this, but I'd be surprised if the older brother isn't a smoker and that's a factor in my student's decision to take it up.

     

    Anyway, all this plus the fact that I really do want to do all I can to set this kid on as easy a path as possible has me of a mind to talk to him about this.  If nothing else, I've always been very curious as to why, with all the solid evidence we have of how ridiculously unhealthy smoking is, how expensive it is, and how hard it is to stop once you start, anyone with half a brain (and he has much more than half) would decide to start.

     

    Haven't had that conversation yet because I learned this right in the middle of a particularly busy/stressful time in the band (football/competitive marching season), and I just didn't want to add more stress for either one of us by throwing this into the mix.  Also, I've been sort of turning over in my mind how this conversation will go.

     

    As dumb as I think starting to smoke is, I don't intend to sound judgmental or dismissive of him.  I don't have "favorite students," but if I did, he'd be one.  He's always been one of my most reliable band members and a great kid, and this doesn't change that.  But if there's anything I can say to help bump him off of a path that I and his mother consider to be self-destructive, I'd hate to think I missed the opportunity.

     

    So, the reason I'm posting is, does anything come to mind for anyone that would be good to bring up in this conversation...something that you've either heard or said in a discussion like this that might make an impression on an 18-year-old with disposable income who thinks he's taken an important step toward adulthood?

     

    ...and yes, I know this is likely a fool's errand, primarily because of that last line.  But like I say...I'd hate to think I could have made a difference and didn't.

    "God guides us on our journey, but careful with those feet." - David Lee Roth, of all people


    Latent Runner

      I don't know how helpful this is, but I have a soon to be 20 year old son and a soon to be 17 year old daughter; both went to and/or are going to a high school in a relatively affluent area where lots of kids have plenty of disposable income (hell, many of the kids drive better cars than the teachers and school administrators), which of course meant the whole smoking thing was a worry of mine for quite some time.

       

      The good news; both of my kids think smoking is dumb.  That said, I didn't wait until they were well into their teenage years before we had the "talk" about smoking.  I decided a nice slow propaganda campaign starting in their pre-teen years was, right or wrong, going to be my plan of attack.  Over the years I would subtly point out the unfortunate accelerated aging of famous personalities due to smoking, or how husky a voice was, or, when the worst happened and a personality passed due to cancer.  By the time they were mid teens they could pick smokers (or former smokers) out of a crowd based just on how they looked, and both of them made conscious decisions to avoid the premature aging and ill health brought on by smoking.

       

      Unfortunately, I have no idea how to cram a decade of propaganda into a single talk, or even a short series of talks.

       

      Good luck, and if you come up with any ideas, I'm sure I won't be the only one here willing to bat them around with you.

      Fat old man PRs:

      • 1-mile (point to point, gravity assist): 5:50
      • 2-mile: 13:49
      • 5K (gravity assist last mile): 21:31
      • 5-Mile: 37:24
      • 10K (first 10K of my Half Marathon): 48:16
      • 10-Mile (first 10 miles of my Half Marathon): 1:17:40
      • Half Marathon: 1:42:13

        First, Mab, kudos to you for taking this on, along with all the other things that a band director has to deal with!

         

        My first thought was that one of the best techniques for dealing with some of these personal issues is the third person approach.  Instead of sitting down with him for a one-on-one, you "incidentally" reference smoking to the class or group.  It seems to be a lot easier for a young person to digest information when it's not taken as a direct personal "assault".

         

        Still, if you want to have an in-person talk with him, that's great too.  I still think I would make it a more general "how are things going" conversation, but things like that you have to play by ear, so to speak.

         

        Good luck, and keep the music playing!

        Well at least someone here is making relevance to the subject.

          First, Mab, kudos to you for taking this on, along with all the other things that a band director has to deal with!

           

          My first thought was that one of the best techniques for dealing with some of these personal issues is the third person approach.  Instead of sitting down with him for a one-on-one, you "incidentally" reference smoking to the class or group.  It seems to be a lot easier for a young person to digest information when it's not taken as a direct personal "assault".

           

          Still, if you want to have an in-person talk with him, that's great too.  I still think I would make it a more general "how are things going" conversation, but things like that you have to play by ear, so to speak.

           

          Good luck, and keep the music playing!

           

          If you have an in-person chat, maybe the way to approach the smoking issue (if the chat goes in that direction....) is to frame it as "it concerns me when someone takes up a self-destructive habit, and I wonder what else is going on with you".

           

          Everyone "knows" that smoking is bad for you, but I guess at that age nobody has really internalized that their decisions now will affect them down the road. You could come with a whole powerpoint presentation full of photos from that twin study showing what smoking does to your face after 30 years, and statistics about smoking-related disease, and all the things you could do with the money you spend on cigarettes, and it wouldn't likely make a difference. But I think the message that you know HE knows smoking is bad, and it concerns you that he would knowingly do something self-destructive, might have a longer-lasting effect.

           

          I have no idea what I'm talking about when it comes to interacting with young adults, but those are my thoughts.

            I don't think one talk is going to get him to quit, although it may be a factor later if enough people talk to him about it.  I am sure part of the problem is the crowd he is hanging around with.  As you said, the information is out there and he has to know it is bad for him.

            jimmyb


              You're obviously at one of those points in life where you're deciding which world you want to live in going forward: one where you made an effort to bump this young man on a different path, and one where you didn't. Go for it and live in the former. The only thing you've got to lose by creating this conversation with him are cool teacher points, but my sense is that you don't care much about that.  The man is 18 years old. Treat him like an adult. Just be direct, tell the truth, and don't make it an inquisition.  Don't tell lies such as "smoking will ruin your life" or "successful, happy people don't smoke." We all know that you can create a happy, fulfilling life and be a major success, and still be a smoker. Tell him the truth about why you're talking with him (don't exclude your own desires and personal "get" from creating the conversation). Ask him why he's smoking and what he's getting out of it. Ask him if he understands the probable futures in terms of health, and the bitch of being a slave to an addiction, and how hard it will be to give cigarettes up (I believe it's the hardest addiction to kick). If he plays the Keith Richards card, then tell him those aren't his real teeth and that Keith is a supernatural force that has come to earth to balance evil with great open-G tuning guitar licks. Then move on, Mab. If he continues to smoke, well, that's his business. You can go forward knowing you gave a crap and gave it your best shot.

              Log    PRs

                It's a tough go- when you are 18 you are indestructible.  Give the talk a try- won't hurt. Sometimes a non-family member adult can make a big difference in a kid's life. You could point out how much money he could save by giving up smoking- at today's prices he could buy a car in 6 months. Give us a report on how it goes.

                (I took up smoking for a few years at a slightly older age than that, but knew it wasn't good for me and finally quit.)


                Cheap and Evil Girl

                  I took up smoking when I was about that age, in spite of being a smart kid raised by health conscious parents.  I needed to do something to break away, to start establishing myself as my own person.  It was a poor choice, obviously, but that's an age when you think bad things happen to other people.

                   

                  I do think you should talk to him.  I hope he listens.  It sure is a great deal easier to never begin smoking than it is to stop.  You might ask him how long he plans to be a smoker, if he plans to smoke for the rest of his (shortened) life.  Because there is the very real possibility that the day will come when he decides he no longer wants to smoke and he may find he cannot overcome the physical/psychological dependence.  Then he will be trapped in a very expensive and deadly habit.

                  I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM DOING.  

                   

                  "Mental toughness is built by doing something that is hard over and over again, especially when you don't feel like doing it. Our society has conditioned us to believe that there should be no discomfort, to stop when we are uncomfortable. But the discomfort we feel when we're doing a challenging workout is an important part of the strengthening process." -Jim Afremow, The Champion's Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train, and Thrive

                    Tell his parents to take him down to the cancer ward at the hospital to volunteer some time.  Few days around there can make the most ardent smoker want to quit.

                      5k  = 19.48 10/1/13

                    10k  = 45.28 4/16/13

                    Half Marathon = 1:38.53  Summer Sizzle 7/13/14

                    Operation Jack Marathon 12/26/12  4:39.11

                    Solo O Marathon 06/02/13  3:52:10

                    Operation Jack Marathon 12/26/13 3:40.34

                      Tell his parents to take him down to the cancer ward at the hospital to volunteer some time.  Few days around there can make the most ardent smoker want to quit.

                       

                      Not so sure about this.  My wife worked in medical facilities, and was astonished at the number or RNs and doctors who smoked and had unhealthy lifestyles.

                      Well at least someone here is making relevance to the subject.


                      No Talent Drips

                         If nothing else, I've always been very curious as to why, with all the solid evidence we have of how ridiculously unhealthy smoking is, how expensive it is, and how hard it is to stop once you start, anyone with half a brain (and he has much more than half) would decide to start.

                         

                        My father always (always) said to me: "I understand the first and the third, i'll just never understand the second". In my adulthood, I think this is feckless, in addition to it being his best effort at expressing concern and disapproval all at once. People--especially young people--work their way through the wretchedness of the first cigarette for myriad reasons, and I think chief among them is basic identification with a group (peer socialization). I suspect the kid is not the only one in his group of friends who is smoking. So, I do find pretty easy to understand the why of it--and I think it is meaningful to articulate because--as you point out--this kid is no dummy.

                         

                        I think it might be helpful to take a slightly different path than what many others have shared; that is, to talk to him about the mechanics of the nicotine addiction. Most smokers can relate to feeling stress, anxiety, excitement, agitation---and regulating those feelings (relief) with a cigarette. Most smokers reverse what is actually taking place here.

                         

                        Before he had his first cigarette, he had no addiction (physical or mental) to nicotine. After his first, he had some level of addiction--and after a week or so, he had a nicely reinforced (about 20 reinfocements per cig; i.e. puffs/cig) addiction. The physical symptoms of nicotine addiction are almost too small to notice--the mental symptoms are immense.

                         

                        As soon as any smoker putts out there last cigarette, they begin the withdrawal process. The feelings of relief that a smoker associates with smoking a cigarette is the cessation of that withdrawal. We typically think something like "I need the cigarette to deal with this feeling of stress" when it is, in fact the cigarette that is the first mover in the cycle of stress (often, that is. I am not ruling out that people have underlying issues--just that cigarettes--the stimulant nicotine- does not abate those underlying issues; rather, it exacerbates).

                         

                        Basic understanding of the cycle can help someone break the incorrect association that they make between a sense of relief and the cigarette. In fact, it flips it on its ear. A common analogy is the one about the guy who hit himself over and over again in the head with a hammer because it felt so good when he stopped.

                         

                        Longer than I usually post, but I do think it is important. One final word from me: i think the "Scared straight" approach misses the mark because it feeds the cycle of anxiety. Everybody knows how terrible cigarettes are for you...when you point this fact out, you're only reminding someone of how horribly they are treating self.  Without providing an explanation of the reinforcement cycle (particularly strong with nicotine) you run the risk of just feeding a negative self concept.

                         

                        Not that i'm familiar with it, or anything...

                         Dei Gratia

                         


                        Needs more cowbell!

                           

                          Not so sure about this.  My wife worked in medical facilities, and was astonished at the number or RNs and doctors who smoked and had unhealthy lifestyles.

                           

                          My mom (an RN), for one.  She did quit when I was about 10, but she's still completely inactive and has every excuse in the book why she can't/won't even go for regular walks for activity.  And a friend's mom (also an RN) smoked herself into lung cancer and subsequent death in her 50s.  I see a LOT of "do as I say, not as I do" amongst medical professionals.  My DH finally "fired" a PCP he had years ago who would tell the hubby that he needed to lose weight, even though the PCP was easily 60#s overweight, himself.

                          I shoot pretty things! ~

                          '14 Goals:

                          • 6 duathlons (1 Olympic distance)

                          • 130#s (and stay there, gotdammit!)

                            I took up smoking when I was about that age, in spite of being a smart kid raised by health conscious parents.  I needed to do something to break away, to start establishing myself as my own person.  It was a poor choice, obviously, but that's an age when you think bad things happen to other people.

                             

                            This is the problem -- at 18 you are not thinking about your long term adult life and if you are, it seems like a long time away and full of unknowns. You are thinking about right now and right now, it may seem cool to smoke. I know I thought that way when I was 18. It's easy to convince yourself that you can always quit later, before the bad effects occur. It's simply how adolescents think. It's not that they don't know about the dangers; they just don't think about them.

                             

                            Any chance of getting him to run with you? Finding something that you enjoy doing that smoking would interfere with could be a great incentive not to smoke. How about pointing out that cigarette smoke leaves a nasty smell that is a big turn-off to girls? I don't know if this would help but as others have pointed out, knowing about the long-term risks is not the issue; short-term trade-offs are much more important at this age. Also, if he's into "I'm 18 and I'll do what I want," which is a very typical attitude, he needs a way to channel those feelings into actions that are not so self-destructive.

                             

                            Good luck. Just reaching out and letting him know that you are concerned is worthwhile. Even if it doesn't alter his behavior, he will know that you are someone he can turn to if he needs some guidance.

                            2014 goals

                            1800 miles; 5k < 25:00; 10k < 53:00HM < 2:00

                             

                            Upcoming:

                            NYC Half Marathon 3/16Boston Marathon 4/21; Newport Liberty HM 9/2; Trenton Half Marathon 10/8


                            Latent Runner

                              Any chance of getting him to run with you? Finding something that you enjoy doing that smoking would interfere with could be a great incentive not to smoke. How about pointing out that cigarette smoke leaves a nasty smell that is a big turn-off to girls?

                               

                              The line I used with my kids is, "Kissing a smoker is like licking an ashtray."  Dead

                              Fat old man PRs:

                              • 1-mile (point to point, gravity assist): 5:50
                              • 2-mile: 13:49
                              • 5K (gravity assist last mile): 21:31
                              • 5-Mile: 37:24
                              • 10K (first 10K of my Half Marathon): 48:16
                              • 10-Mile (first 10 miles of my Half Marathon): 1:17:40
                              • Half Marathon: 1:42:13
                              jmctav23


                              2/3rds training

                                Sounds like someone has quit after reading The Easy Way by Alan Carr.  I'm working my way through it right now.

                                 

                                My father always (always) said to me: "I understand the first and the third, i'll just never understand the second". In my adulthood, I think this is feckless, in addition to it being his best effort at expressing concern and disapproval all at once. People--especially young people--work their way through the wretchedness of the first cigarette for myriad reasons, and I think chief among them is basic identification with a group (peer socialization). I suspect the kid is not the only one in his group of friends who is smoking. So, I do find pretty easy to understand the why of it--and I think it is meaningful to articulate because--as you point out--this kid is no dummy.

                                 

                                I think it might be helpful to take a slightly different path than what many others have shared; that is, to talk to him about the mechanics of the nicotine addiction. Most smokers can relate to feeling stress, anxiety, excitement, agitation---and regulating those feelings (relief) with a cigarette. Most smokers reverse what is actually taking place here.

                                 

                                Before he had his first cigarette, he had no addiction (physical or mental) to nicotine. After his first, he had some level of addiction--and after a week or so, he had a nicely reinforced (about 20 reinfocements per cig; i.e. puffs/cig) addiction. The physical symptoms of nicotine addiction are almost too small to notice--the mental symptoms are immense.

                                 

                                As soon as any smoker putts out there last cigarette, they begin the withdrawal process. The feelings of relief that a smoker associates with smoking a cigarette is the cessation of that withdrawal. We typically think something like "I need the cigarette to deal with this feeling of stress" when it is, in fact the cigarette that is the first mover in the cycle of stress (often, that is. I am not ruling out that people have underlying issues--just that cigarettes--the stimulant nicotine- does not abate those underlying issues; rather, it exacerbates).

                                 

                                Basic understanding of the cycle can help someone break the incorrect association that they make between a sense of relief and the cigarette. In fact, it flips it on its ear. A common analogy is the one about the guy who hit himself over and over again in the head with a hammer because it felt so good when he stopped.

                                 

                                Longer than I usually post, but I do think it is important. One final word from me: i think the "Scared straight" approach misses the mark because it feeds the cycle of anxiety. Everybody knows how terrible cigarettes are for you...when you point this fact out, you're only reminding someone of how horribly they are treating self.  Without providing an explanation of the reinforcement cycle (particularly strong with nicotine) you run the risk of just feeding a negative self concept.

                                 

                                Not that i'm familiar with it, or anything...

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