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Parent Power: Help your Kids Avoid Risky Behaviors

What It Takes to Raise Kids Who Will Make Good Decisions

Surviving Ophelia

The Inside Story on Teen Girls: Experts Answer Teens’ Questions


Tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs affect boys and girls differently.
Here's what you should know:

Girls and women have a more difficult time quitting smoking than men. Girls and women aged 12-24 are more likely to report being unable to cut down on smoking than men and boys the same age and are also significantly more likely than boys to report feeling dependent on cigarettes, and are more likely to report feeling sad, blue, or depressed during quit attempts, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids also reports smoking among girls and young women has increased dramatically in the 1990's, with smoking among high school girls increasing from 27 percent in 1991 to 34.7 percent in 1997. Among female high school seniors, smoking is at its highest rate since 1979: 35.2% of female high-school seniors are current smokers. Marketing cigarettes as "slims" or "thins" plays into social pressures on young women to control their weight, manage stress, and appear grown-up, according to the group.

When you start to drink at a young age, you are also putting yourself at greater risk later on. Kids who started to drink before age 15 are four times more likely to get hooked on alcohol than those who began to drinkafter age 21.

Binge drinking brings with it serious alcohol-related problems, such as unprotected and unplanned sex, getting into trouble with police, damage to property and getting hurt or injured, driving under the influence or riding with a driver who was high or drunk, getting behind in school work or doing something you later regret. No question about it, underage drinking can damage and jeopardize your health and lifetime prospects. And for girls who try to keep up with their boyfriend's or other male friend's drinking, you should know they have a lower tolerance for alcohol due to weight and their amount of body water. Therefore girls who drink the same amount as their guy friends will get drunk faster and can develop other problems sooner.

There are stronger forms of marijuana available to kids today than in the 1960s which means stronger effects. There are serious consequences to marijuana use, especially for teens, which include impairment of short-term memory, concentration and motor skills, critical for a child's intellectual and social development; greater likelihood of use of another illegal drug such as cocaine or heroin; increased likelihood of having unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners, leaving them at greater risk of pregnancy, AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases; possible long-term physical and psychological dependence and/or slowed reaction time, impaired coordination and decrease attention span, leading to increased highway accidents and fatalities.

© The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia
University (http://www.casacolumbia.org)

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