In a snapshot that quickly made the tabloids, Madonna’s daughter, 15-year-old Lourdes Leon Ciccone, is seen smoking a cigarette with friends on a Manhattan street. The singer’s eldest daughter, a LaGuardia High School sophomore, made headlines in The New York Daily News, under the headline, “Oh Lordy, Lourdes!”
Beside being the latest tabloid dish, the story does make parents — in a society turning swiftly away from tobacco because of its health effects — wonder what to say to their own kids about smoking.
Madonna, herself, admitted she perhaps was not as tough as she should be on her wayward teenager. Asked about the photo during an interview with Harry Smith on NBC’s “Rock Center,” that aired April 18, a candid Madonna said that juggling the responsibilities of her career and being a single mom of four could be a challenge. Raising a family in the glare of the constant spotlight is “pretty challenging,” she said, but she added, “so far, I’ve survived with sanity and humour intact.”
When Lourdes was 13, Madonna talked to Teen Vogue about allowing her daughter to wear makeup to “special events.” The famously uninhibited singer said her daughter’s always had a style sense that bordered on the edgy, leading to discussions about hem length and cleavage.
But Madonna, who despite the appearance of cigarettes in her newest music video claimed she does not smoke herself, said Lourdes’ latest accessory crossed a line.
“(I) wasn’t very happy,” said the superstar singer, who’s “MDNA” was recently released. “But honestly, I don’t think I’m as tough as I should be. I think I need to be maybe tougher. It’s hard — every day is a negotiation. But cigarette smoking I’m not very fond of — for anyone.”
The Mayo Clinic is less blasé on the subject. Its website offers parents suggestions if their teen or tween is found to be smoking.
“Teen smoking is a big deal,” one article begins. “After all, teens who smoke are likely to turn into adults who smoke. If you find your teen smoking, take it seriously. Stopping teen smoking in its tracks is the best way to promote a lifetime of good health.”
The Clinic recommends starting the conversation early and sticking with it. Commands, ultimatums and threats are unlikely to work. Instead, ask your teen what made him or her pick up the habit in the first place. Some teens may start smoking in order to fit in at school, because they think it will relieve stress, or because he or she thinks it looks cool.
In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics examined the role advertising plays in smoking initiation. In a study published in the February 2011 issue of Pediatrics, researchers showed six cigarette advertisements and six advertisements from other products (candy, cellphones, etc.) to a group of German adolescents who had never smoked, and asked the teens how often they had seen the ads. The group was then monitored for nine months.
Of the original group of 2,102 youths, approximately 277 began smoking over the course of the study. Those who saw the most advertising were also more likely to begin smoking in the future. The paper’s authors concluded that cigarette ads are a powerful lure to new teenage smokers. They also recommended a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising.
The Mayo Clinic might also recommend Madonna emphasize the consequences of smoking to her daughter. Rather than lecture Lourdes, she might ask her what she thinks are the negative aspects of smoking, and then follow with her own list.
For a fashionable young woman for whom appearances are clearly important, it might be effective to appeal to her vanity. The Clinic includes bad breath, yellow teeth and wrinkles among the side affects of tobacco.