Thursday, December 29, 2011

Still Smoking? Think of the Children!

How's the second week of winter break going for you?  How many times have you screamed at your kids?  Fed them Christmas candy for breakfast?  Confiscated your toddler's new set of horns, a gift from your relative with a grudge?

I've found a surefire way to cheer myself up whenever I feel exhausted and guilty at the end of a Bad Mommy day.  No, I don't look through my kids' "You're the best mom in the world!" cards -- you do realize their teachers force them to write that.  No, I cope by thinking about other women who are much worse mothers than I am.  I'm talking celebrity moms.  Moms who are impossibly rich and beautiful but can't be bothered to whip up some Kraft mac n' cheese.  Moms like Britney Spears, who not only smokes around her kids, but also allows them to play with her cigarettes and lighter.

It's probably not fair of me to pick on poor Britney.  If the paparazzi were tailing my family, they'd probably catch my kids setting the dog on fire.  And I wouldn't look half as good in that bikini.

While Brit probably knows about smoking's ill effects on her own health, she may not be fully aware of the dangers of secondhand smoke, including increased risks of sudden infant death syndrome, ear infections, and asthma, not to mention a higher likelihood that her own children will smoke in the future.  In fact, half of parents who smoke claim they have never been counseled by a pediatrician to stop.

Keeping your child healthy should be a powerful motivation to quit, but is this protective instinct enough to overcome the addiction?  A meta-analysis published in Pediatrics this week found that programs that counsel parents on the dangers of secondhand smoke do increase the chances of quitting successfully, though the benefit was small: 23% in the intervention groups quit, compared to 18% in the control groups.  Interestingly, parents of children over the age of 4 were more likely to quit with counseling, while those of younger children weren't.  The authors speculated that despite the increased risk of SIDS, mothers with newborns may be less able to stop smoking during this particularly stressful time.  Another possible reason is that as kids get older, parents may be more motivated to model healthy behaviors.

So for those of you still trying to quit, stick with it.  Make a New Year's resolution.  Ask your pediatrician to give you a pep talk at your child's next visit, and make an appointment with your own doctor to see if you should be prescribed any medication to help you quit.  Don't be surprised if this is the hardest thing you've ever had to do.  In fact, the tobacco companies are on to you -- there are more cigarette ads in January and February than any other month.  If you relapse, don't beat yourself up.  It takes the average smoker eight tries before she's able to quit for good.  

If all else fails, just think of Britney.



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