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Parents Who Smoke, Serve Junk Food and Harm Children


Parents are role models for their children, so some experts warn that parents who smoke in front of their kids and serve them junk food are preparing a generation for a future of diabetes, heart disease, and early death.

Parents as Role Models

Numerous studies have emphasized the importance of children being exposed to healthy role models and the impact such individuals can have on physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. Although not all such role models are parents, the impact of positive, supportive behavior from parents is critical for healthy childhood development.

According to a new report from Professor Steve Field, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, which represents 42,000 primary care physicians, parents who display unhealthy behaviors such as smoking and eating junk food in front of their children “are ultimately shortening their lives.” Field believes parents and adults overall need to assume more responsibility for their own health and lifestyle habits.

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Field notes that parents who smoke in cars while transporting small children are “committing a form of child abuse,” and that adults who engage in this and other unhealthy activities around their children need long-term help so they can successfully change these habits. To help them get such help, Field believes general practitioners should take a major role.

“Every consultation is an opportunity to detect early warning signs that prevent illness and disease happening in the first place and to promote healthy lifestyles,” he says. He urges parents and others to become aware of the potential risks and harm they are incurring by engaging in unhealthy behaviors such as smoking and eating junk food in front of their children.

Parents and other adults who want more information about avoiding junk food and planning healthy meals and about smoking can get help from Meals Matter, Food Insight, the US Department of Agriculture, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, among others.

Royal College of General Practitioners, UK