- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 7, 2000

When Colin Crowley was 4, he begged his father to quit smoking. But then he hit the teen years, and Colin began sneaking cigarettes behind his father's back. One night, he got caught puffing away in the back yard.
"I was furious," says Stephen Crowley, a reformed smoker who lives in Rockville. "He had shamed me into quitting when he was little, and I used to tell him all the time how he saved my life," Mr. Crowley says. "Now there he was smoking."
Mr. Crowley delivered a unique anti-smoking lecture that was a cross between vaudeville and angry parent. He lit up an entire pack of cigarettes and stuffed them in his mouth. Surrounded by a volcano of smoke, Mr. Crowley told his son what a fool he would be to continue a habit that killed off many a Crowley kin in years gone by.
Colin's older brother, Ryan, also was summoned for the discussion Mr. Crowley had found a pack of cigarettes in his pocket a few months earlier.
"I wanted them to see how sickening it was," says Mr. Crowley, who admits that his sons were trying not to laugh at the spectacle. "The whole place stunk. I asked them how they would feel if I was still smoking." The lecture was partially successful. One son doesn't smoke, but Colin, who is now 19, is hooked.
Anti-tobacco experts suggest that Mr. Crowley may have waited too late to have the smoking chat with his children.
"I think it is really important to talk to children when they are young," says Robert Schwebel, a psychologist in Tucson, Ariz. He and his wife started the smoking conversation with their two boys when they were 6 and 3. The family was on vacation and got stuck with a hotel room that had a lingering stench of cigarette smoke.
The boys decided cigarettes were "stinky" based on that experience, Mr. Schwebel says.
He plans to follow up with more sophisticated conversations in a few years to build up an aversion to smoking and to give them techniques for turning down cigarettes that peers may offer. Here are some of Mr. Schwebel's ideas for talking to children about the dangers of smoking:
Point out how cigarette advertising is misleading by suggesting that healthy people can enjoy smoking with no consequences. Challenge the child to contrast the image an advertisement projects with the reality of what tobacco smoke is like.
Ask children to observe the coughing and hacking in a person who has smoked for a long time. Then ask them if they see marathon runners lighting up after a race.
Have a smoker blow a mouthful of cigarette smoke into a tissue and then observe the color. Explain that this is what gets deposited inside a person's lungs when smoke is inhaled.
Explain the power of addiction. This is a discussion to have when a child is around 10. They can grasp the concept of what it is like to be a prisoner and to be unable to stop something that gives a temporary pleasure. At this age, children also can understand how chemicals react in the body.
For teens, it helps to point out the short-term negative consequences of smoking. Cigarettes make a person's breath smell bad and can stain teeth.
Suggest that children interview adult smokers about their habit and how they got started with smoking. In most cases, people think they can quit whenever they want and are surprised to find out it is not easy to give up smoking.

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