Cover image for Generation risk : how to protect your teen from smoking and other dangerous behavior
Generation risk : how to protect your teen from smoking and other dangerous behavior
Newton, Corky.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : M. Evans, [2001]

Physical Description:
222 pages ; 24 cm
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Call Number
Material Type
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HV5745 .N49 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Today's parents are confronted with startling degrees of sophistication, independence and boldness that are the badges of a new age of teenagers. These kids can smoke, drink, pierce and tattoo their bodies, use drugs, and have sex at will. What's different about teens of today is that they have access to things like never before, especially through the internet. They have been weaned on extreme sports and MTV, and they love risk. Over seventy percent of all high school aged children have tried cigarettes. That means that it's not somebody else's children that are at risk -- all children are susceptible to smoking, and parents need help to combat this problem. This book will help parents get personally involved in their children's lives by breaking down the reasons why teens take risks, and why many choose smoking as one of their emblems of defiance. The book delivers the answers that many parents and today's teenagers seek: answers on smoking, on friendship, on parents, on rebellion, on trust, and on growing up.

Author Notes

Corky Newton is the champion of teenagers and children in a tobacco company. As vice-president of corporate responsibility and youth smoking prevention at Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corporation, she has observed hundreds of focus groups with teenagers on the subject of tobacco, drugs, sex, parents, peer pressure, and stress in their lives. A native of Lake Charles, Louisiana, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Tulane University

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Given the complexities of life for children and their parents, these two books will be welcomed resources for parents to help their children overcome hurdles and avoid alluring but risky behavior. In 50 years of clinical psychology experience, Brooks and Goldstein witnessed the essential importance of resilience in helping children to cope. Here, they synthesize research on children's coping skills; define and describe resilience (the capacity to cope and feel competent); and offer specific strategies for nurturing resilience in children. They use case studies and research to show children dealing with loss and trauma in many situations, such as snubs by friends and divorced parents. The authors list and examine in-depth 10 guideposts that help parents form the foundation of resilient youth, including being empathetic, communicating effectively and listening actively, and changing "negative scripts." The premise is that parents can't change the world, but they can help their children cope. Newton heads the youth smoking prevention program for Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation and brings an insider's insights into the dangers of cigarette smoking. Although some readers might be skeptical of her sincerity, this book is quite honest in its assessment of risks from cigarette smoking, particularly for youth, and its frank advice to parents. Newton examines the "interconnected physical, social, and psychological factors that can intrigue and attract teenagers." Cigarette smoking doesn't take place in a social vacuum and is likely to be part of other risky behavior. Her advice is to build strong communication between parents and teens to reduce all risky behaviors. The final section deals specifically with smoking and how parents--including those who smoke themselves--can intervene. Her most prominent advice: don't say don't; instead, she advises focusing on positive interactions and building strong relationships. --Vanessa Bush

Library Journal Review

Though this book might not have been written before the recent spate of antitobacco court decisions, Newton (vice president of corporate and youth responsibility at Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp.) has written a credible, research-based manual for parents and counselors of teenagers who might be attracted to risky behaviors including smoking. She begins with a discussion of teenage culture, citing typical themes as well as a description of the unique characteristics that may make this generation more prone to dangerous activity. In response, new methods of communication grounded in clarity and mutual respect and programs stressing assertiveness and social refusal skills are presented. The concluding section on smoking, addiction, and related behaviors involves no simple defense of smoking, especially among youth. However, there is also no critique of the industry's past transgressions. Rather the book's "empowerment" approach charges parents and schools with the responsibility of protecting teenagers. Useful for its insights into the mindset of today's adolescents, this book is suitable for public libraries. Antoinette Brinkman, formerly with Southwest Indiana Mental Health Ctr. Lib., Evansville (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One TEENS WHO SMOKE, AND WHY THEY DO Jason is a teenage smoker. He lives with his mother and his two younger sisters. His mother is a nurse who works late many evenings and often on weekends; At age sixteen, Jason is tired of being saddled with responsibilities for babysitting his sisters, who don't listen to him anyway, He wants to be left alone instead of being constantly hassled by his mother about cleaning up, doing homework, and everything else she can dream up.     Jason has been home from school for about three hours. The dishes from dinner are still on the table next to his books. The girls are watching television. As he sinks back into a chair to relax and pulls a pack of cigarettes from his pocket, his mother walks in and starts in on him.     "Jason, how can you smoke? We've talked about this so many times before! You know you're risking lung cancer or heart disease or emphysema."     None of Jason's friends have lung cancer, heart disease, or emphysema. He has heard this speech before, and it means nothing to him. He doesn't plan to smoke forever. He tunes his mother out and begins to day-dream. He holds the pack in his right hand and pulls off the thin gold tear tape with his left. The tape always comes off perfectly, always in one piece. He leaves the cellophane on the bottom of the pack because he likes the way it feels in his fingers, and he likes to hear that soft crackle every time he takes the pack out of his pocket.     His mother is harping at him again; " Do you want to die from lung cancer? "     Jason immerses himself in the ritual of opening the pack. He flips open the box with his thumb and pulls away the loose foil covering the cigarettes. There they are: two tightly packed rows of cork-tipped cigarettes, just waiting for him to pick one out.     His mother is going on; " Don't you know you're ruining your lungs? "     Jason pulls a cigarette out of the pack and sticks it in his mouth as he snaps the box closed. He lets the cigarette hang between his lips while he drops the pack back into his pocket. It feels good there. And he knows he looks good. He reaches into his pocket for the lighter.     His mother's voice drifts in and out; "... kills over 400,000 people a year ...."     The lighter is in Jason's right hand. The cigarette is still hanging between his lips. He doesn't hold the cigarette with his fingers to light it. Girls do that. He's happy now. Man, he really wants to smoke. He snaps his lighter, and the flame engulfs the end of the cigarette. He loves that. He especially loves it in the dark. The cigarette ignites. The tobacco crinkles evenly all around the tip. He inhales deeply and drops the lighter back into his pocket. Ah, there it is now. That sharp rasp on the soft tissue at the back of the throat. The smoke feels like silk in his mouth. His lungs are full. Now the satisfying exhale. He blows the smoke out in a straight stream and watches it swirl in the air.     "Jason, how can you just ignore me when I'm trying to protect you from something dangerous and harmful?"     Jason is waiting now to flick the ashes. He likes to watch them come off the and of the cigarette cleanly. He takes another long, satisfying drag.     "Have you even thought about what you're doing to your body by smoking cigarettes?"     Jason blocks out her words and immerses himself in a feeling of tranquility as he inhales again, Now he's almost reached the end of the cigarette. One last drag to finish it off. Last chance to smoke for awhile, so it's got to be a big puff to linger with him.     His mother's exasperated voice breaks through, "What does it take to get through to you, anyway? "     He finally answers, " You don't have a clue, do you, Mom? " Perhaps you recognize Jason. He may live in your home or that of your neighbor. He started smoking at a young age and, by now, he is as sophisticated in his smoking habit as any adult. What can Jason's mother (or you) ever do to convince him that he's too young to smoke, that he shouldn't be smoking at all?     Or perhaps your teenager is more like fourteen-year-old Amanda. She would never light up in front of you, yet after she has been out with her friends on the weekend, she returns home and, under the fresh scent of perfume she must have sprayed on her clothes, you detect something else. You hope the musty smell of smoke is just from being around other kids who are smoking, but you wonder....     Wearing a bright pink halter top and ragged cutoff jeans, Amanda is talking to her guidance counselor, whom she likes and trusts: " There are certain things you just don't want to tell your parents because you don't want to hurt them. You don't want them to be disappointed in you ," she says. Amanda is twisting back and forth in her chair, looking mostly at the floor. She leans forward and wrinkles her brow as she looks up at her counselor.     "But your friends are really important to you. You want to try and fit in with everybody so sometimes you experiment and go do what other people are doing. I don't know. Sometimes it's really hard to know what to do."     Like so many other teens, Amanda is tempted to try a cigarette. She is uncomfortable about the idea of deceiving her parents, but she wants to fit in with her friends and doesn't want to miss anything that might be fun. What can you do to convince her not to smoke?     Or maybe neither a "Jason" nor an "Amanda" is on your mind right now. Maybe you're a smoker yourself, like Martina's mother. You know the pleasurable aspects of smoking that could attract a teenager (the calming effect, the routine, the enjoyable taste, the comfort of having something to do with your hands besides eat, and so on.) But you also know the negatives (the odor that permeates everything, the feeling of doing something you can't easily control, and the long-term concerns about health), and you don't want your teenager to follow in your footsteps. How do you convince your teen to. "Do as I say, not as I do?"     Martina is only twelve years old and answers questions freely and easily. Her youthful face is framed with bouncy curls, and she seems to be bursting with energy. The summer sun has bleached her hair and lightly freckled her face.     "My mom smokes, but she always tells my sister and me, `Don't smoke because it's not good for you.'" Wearing a yellow T-shirt, red shorts, and thick-soled tennis shoes, she cocks her head to the side when she talks. "I'm like, `Well, you're telling us not to do something that you've done all your life, and you're still doing it.' She's like, `Well, I learned from my mistake, and I'm trying to help you so you don't make the same one.'     "It's really confusing to know what to do because, you know, I'm curious what it's like."     Jason's, Amanda's, and Martina's parents face a problem confronting all parents today: how to communicate with teenagers about the long-range (and not so long-range) dangers of some of their behaviors. To a teenager, invincibility is part of his personality makeup, and because smoking, complete with its forbidden "label," provides short-term thrills, excitement, and immediate gratification, teens see little reason to refrain from trying it. Long-term consequences are not relevant because teenagers are oblivious to their own mortality.     As a parent, the issue facing you is to find ways to help your kids avoid risky behavior instead of seeking it. The task ahead of you is not an easy one. And, in the case of smoking in particular, the attractions for teenagers are strong. THE MYSTIQUE OF SMOKING What is the mystique about cigarettes that tempts so many teenagers to try smoking before they are even fifteen? Parents seeking simple answers to this complex question will encounter only frustration and disappointment. The reasons go beyond rule breaking, emulation of movie star role models, curiosity, and the desire to take a risk. The smoking experience encompasses a network of interconnected physical, social, and psychological factors that can intrigue and attract teenagers. Why People Smoke Smokers describe the effects of smoking in terms of taste and flavor, and talk about "impact"--the split-second sensation that smoke produces in the back of their throats, something like the bubbly stimulation of carbonation in soft drinks, something to anticipate and savor.     Cigarettes provide a whole range of sensations to satisfy smokers, and the smoking experience involves far more than simply the physical effects. There are social dimensions to smoking that complicate and enhance the ritual, and perhaps most importantly, psychological aspects that affect the smoker's self-image.     Cigarette smoking is a unique experience that represents a jumble of contradictions. Smokers love cigarettes and hate cigarettes. Cigarettes can be both stimulating and relaxing . Cigarettes taste terrible and wonderful . Cigarettes help people feel more comfortable in social situations , and yet many smokers feel socially ostracized .     If all the effects of smoking were negative, it would be a lot easier to convince teenagers not to smoke. But because the smoking experience is also gratifying, the obstacles are tougher. Teenagers see smoking as a form of serf-indulgence, and they feel entitled to a share of the pleasure.     It's a compelling fact that many people like to smoke . In marketing research studies, smokers list a number of reasons why they smoke: • It's relaxing. • I like the taste. • It has a calming effect. • It's part of a routine that I'm used to. • It gives me something to do with my hands. • It makes drinking more enjoyable. • It adds to my enjoyment of a meal. • It keeps my weight down. • It helps me feel at ease with people I don't know. • It helps me concentrate. • It helps keep me awake.     Social psychologists and health researchers have determined that, for teenagers, there are even more reasons: • It's against the rules. • My friends do it. • It makes me look older. • It's a cool thing to do.     Judith Rich Harris, author of The Nurture Assumption , believes that "it is because adults don't approve of smoking--because there is something dangerous and disreputable about it--that teenagers want to do it." The Sensation of Smoking The smoking experience is multifaceted and unique to each smoker. Even though beginning smokers typically react negatively to the taste and impact of their first cigarettes, smokers often develop a desire to experience the wide range of sensory reactions to cigarettes.     For example, smokers expect and want a certain degree of "irritation" when they smoke, almost a slightly painful sensation in the throat, mouth, or chest. Without irritation, the cigarette tastes bland or "blah" and feels like inhaling hot air.     As smoke enters the mouth, it triggers taste sensations--good tobacco taste or bad tobacco taste, good or bad menthol taste. Smokers savor just the right feel of the smoke in the mouth to enhance the smoking experience. If there is too little, they complain that the cigarette is too hard to draw or too meek or mild. If there is too much smoke, they say it is harsh, strong, or irritating.     Smokers describe the "body" of the smoke, which is the weight of the smoke in the mouth. More body means more substance, more richness, more fullness, like the difference between a milkshake and a glass of milk. Smokers are concerned about "smoothness"--the amount of tobacco taste, the absence of a jarring sensation. For menthol cigarettes, they expect a "cooling effect"--a refreshing rush of flavor like the feeling of sucking air after eating a peppermint candy, and a tingling sensation in the mouth.     Another big part of smoking is anticipation. Smokers expect to be satisfied, calmed, yet stimulated, The Look and Feel Smokers like to watch smoke swirling in the air. It's relaxing to see the stream of exhaled smoke dissipate into gentle wisps. The deep breathing associated with smoking is, in itself, a calming experience and a stress reliever.     Smokers like the feel of the pack in their hands, the sound of the cellophane outer and the aroma of the cigarette tobacco and flavorings when they open the pack. They like to feel the texture of the cigarette paper in their hands and on their lips. They like to flick the ashes and to stub out the cigarette in a certain way as an expression of smoking style: smashing out the lit end, folding the cigarette over the stubbed out end, rolling the burning tip out of the end, or partially extinguishing the lit end to let the cigarette smolder in the ashtray. Smoking to Lose Weight Researchers in Boston have recently established that the desire to lose weight is another important reason why some kids smoke. As reported by the Associated Press, Dr. Alison Field of Harvard Medical School noted that "girls who were unhappy with their appearance were twice as likely to think about using tobacco," and that "those who were doing something to lose weight were more likely to smoke than those who were not."     Weight is a sensitive subject for teenagers. Researchers in the study asked only indirect questions about weight and smoking because they didn't want to suggest to kids that smoking could help them lose weight. Dr. Michael Jellinek, chief of child psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, pointed to the "societal stereotype of being very thin" as a motivation for teenagers to take health risks to lose weight.     Hollywood isn't helping. A recent People magazine cover story challenged the wisdom of supermodels, actors, dancers, and stars who starve themselves to fit the latest trend in skinny shapes, risking infertility and osteoporosis to maintain their single-digit dress sizes.     For teenagers highly susceptible to influences from role models, the concept of taking health risks to look thin may seem perfectly acceptable.     Stacked against these attributes about smoking is a formidable list of things smokers dislike about cigarettes. But for smokers the negatives can all be overcome, rationalized away, or postponed. The social, physical, and psychological aspects of smoking form a powerful combination. So this list of negatives--the primary source of logic for antismoking advocates--has little chance of dissuading a determined smoker: • Smoking increases my risk of disease. • Cigarettes are expensive. • I feel too dependent on cigarettes. • The ashes are messy. • I sometimes burn my clothes with the ashes. • There's an unpleasant aroma in my clothes, the room, or my car. • They make my throat feel scratchy. • They fill the air with smoke. • They leave stains on my teeth and fingers. • They give me bad breath. • When I smoke, I run out of breath easily. • They leave an unpleasant aftertaste. • They annoy other people.     For teenagers bent on making their own decisions, the standard arguments have even less effect. WHY OLD SOLUTIONS DON'T WORK Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall; Humpty Dumpty had a great fall; All the King's horses and all the King's men Couldn't put Humpty together again. So the King said, "Then I want more horses, and more men!" This parody of the well-known Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme is both funny and ironic. When the King dedicated all of his resources toward putting Humpty together, he failed. His defeat stemmed from the fact that Humpty Dumpty was an egg , who could not be put back together through the force of horses and men. The joke is funny because it is so obvious that more of the wrong solution will not solve the problem. It's sad because that's the way we often behave ourselves.     When faced with problems that confront our teenagers, we naturally apply logic. When that doesn't work, we apply more logic.     Like Jason's mother and many parents like her, health organizations continue to drum into kids the dangers of smoking, That's symptomatic of the natural knee-jerk reaction most people display when faced with the issue of youth smoking. They tell kids that cigarettes cause lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and other diseases, and are responsible for over 400,000 deaths a year. They show pictures of people who have contracted these diseases. They show pictures of diseased organs. They describe the long-term consequences.     For decades, parents have used the expression, "If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times ..." But if the child has already heard a warning/admonition/threat a thousand times, and has failed to heed it, why say it again?     This type of behavior (repeating warnings that have never worked before) is particularly ineffective with teenagers who are challenging adult authority and wisdom at every opportunity. In this context, appeals to long-term thinking are bound to fail, particularly with a generation which is growing up in a world of instant access through cell phones, pagers, e-mail, and faxes. If teenagers can't taste it, feel it, wear it, or drive it-- now --they can't relate to it. They've never had to wait for anything. To influence this fast-paced and sensory-overloaded generation, reasons for avoiding risks must have relevance, impact, and immediacy.     If the approach of emphasizing the health risks of smoking and the dangers of other types of risky behavior hasn't worked with teenagers yet, more of the same is not likely to help. So what will? That's what you'll learn later on in the book.     First, it's important to understand that smoking doesn't occur in isolation. Teenagers push what they perceive to be the limits in many aspects of their lives. If your teenager is smoking, that may be only one of a number of risky behaviors. To best guide your teenager, you can begin by understanding this generations compelling desire to take risks. HIGH RISK LIVING--A NEW CULTURAL NORM Teenagers today have grown up with R-rated movies, explicit language in rap music, plenty of money, and essentially free access to all varieties of indulgences.     The world they see is one where adults are already living life on the edge. While our own parents may have pursued traditional pastimes such as baseball, reading, motor boating, gardening, or golf, we as parents have peers who are already pushing life's limits.     We see millions of adult Americans engaging with a passion in sporting activities so exhilarating, dangerous, and thrilling that they have been dubbed "extreme sports"--snowboarding, mountain biking, ice-climbing, paragliding, skateboarding, and jumping off cliffs over rushing waters with small single chutes. Unprotected sex is raging, and the popularity of heroin is surging as a drug of choice among the chic. Day trading in stocks has usurped long-term conservative investment. Venture capital and high-tech firms dominate new trends in business school graduate employment.     If adults are taking these kinds of risks, what's left for kids who want to rebel to establish their independence?     Additional risk, of course. In order to forge a path of their own, these teens feel the solution is to push the limits on not just one front, but on as many as seem fun on any given Friday night or Tuesday afternoon. As a result, this generation--your teenager's peer group--is defining a new paradigm of interaction with parents and teachers, treating home as a place for refueling and school as an obstacle course in risk exposure to drinking, smoking, drugs, violence, and sex.     As these teenagers break free from parental control to establish independence, they are engaging in risk behaviors of a new order of magnitude. For this generation, mildly offensive acts to shock their parents are not enough. They are displaying a startling degree of sophistication, independence, and boldness as they smoke, drink, pierce and tattoo their bodies, and experiment with drugs. If they want something, they can find it and get it on the Internet. They have been weaned on MTV and extreme sports, and they love risk .     Even teenagers who may not pierce body parts or dabble with drugs are not afraid to try smoking, and most are relatively open about it despite parental disapproval.     To protect your teenager from smoking and other dangerous behavior, you must first understand what drives today's savvy, adventurous, modern teenagers whose attitudes of boldness and invincibility have branded their generation with a new title and a new identity: Generation Risk .     If you really don't want your teenager to smoke, you need to do more than disapprove. You can't leave it up to the schools to protect your teenager. You have to get personally involved, and you have to know what you're talking about. You have to understand why teens take risks, and why they pick smoking as a badge of defiance. Copyright © 2001 Corky Newton. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Forewordp. 9
Prefacep. 11
Acknowledgmentsp. 15
Part I Understanding Teenagers and Risk
1. Teens Who Smoke, and Why They Dop. 19
2. Risk-Taking and Its Appeal to Your Teenagerp. 31
3. The Special Challenges of Todayp. 47
4. Peer Pressure and Popular Culture: More Potent Than Beforep. 59
Part II Laying the Foundation
5. Connectedness: A Powerful Protective Factor for Your Teenp. 75
6. Communication, Not Confrontationp. 93
7. Avoiding the Need for Risky Behavior: Helping Your Teen Manage Stress and Angerp. 109
8. Enemies of Risk: Discipline, Responsibility, and Mutual Trustp. 123
9. Building Your Teenager's Self-Esteemp. 145
Part III How to Prevent Smoking
10. Don't Say Don'tp. 159
11. The Facts About Smoking and Addictionp. 171
12. Refusal Skills--More Than Just "Saying No"p. 179
13. What If You Smoke?p. 189
14. Caught in the Act: What to Dop. 197
15. Reaching Generation Riskp. 207
Conclusionp. 217
Indexp. 219