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What to Do if Your Child Starts Smoking

What to Do if Your Child Starts Smoking

It may be a jarring shock to you when you realize your child has started to smoke cigarettes. They may have begun to do so after seeing their friends and peers in school smoking—or they may have started because you or your spouse is a smoker. If you don’t want them smoking, it’s time to have a good, deep discussion with them. Before doing so, arm yourself with solid research and information, because your child may resist your attempts to reason with them. So read on if you want to know what to do if your child starts smoking.

Find a Good Time for a Heart-to-Heart *

Your first thought may be to grab your teen by the arm and sit them down for a good, stern talking-to. Resist it. Instead, let them know that this conversation will be happening, but not right now. Your first task, mom or dad, is to talk to your child’s pediatrician and start studying websites about the negative effects of cigarette smoke, nicotine and all those chemicals on your child’s body. Once you and your child have calmed down, calmly approach them and set up a day and time when you’ll have your discussion about smoking.

What to Do if Your Child Starts SmokingBefore you begin doing your research, figure out why
this talk is necessary. You have the right to tell your teen what they can and can’t do. Even though they may loudly argue that, “It’s my body and I can do anything I want with it!” they are forgetting that they don’t understand just how badly cigarettes and smoking can affect them. Also, they are dealing with something that’s even stronger than parent’s rules: peer pressure.

Once your child is aware that you know they are smoking, they may decide to bring the discussion to you. Be ready. Find booklets from the American Cancer Society and bookmark websites that will help you prove your point. Your teen is much more likely to approach you if they know you have a good relationship, will listen to them without shutting them down and that they can trust what you say.

Talk to Your Children about Cigarettes and Addiction *

Cigarette manufacturers deliberately make their products so they are extremely addictive. It’s easy for an adult to get hooked on nicotine. In addition, your teen’s body is even more vulnerable to the addictive qualities of nicotine than yours is. Your teen probably doesn’t know either of these facts, so make sure you point them out. As you discuss cigarettes, smoking and how the products in cigarettes are so addictive, compare the addictiveness of nicotine to that of cocaine or heroin. While it’s illegal to do so, some cigarette manufacturers may still flavor their products so that children like yours are more likely to smoke them. Flavors can include gum and candy. Or the manufacturer may make the cigarette taste more mild.

U.K. Parents Have the Same Concerns *

Teens in the U.K., Europe and other parts of the world face the same peer pressure to take up smoking. The parents of these teens share your concerns about the effects of cigarette smoke on their children. In Northumbria, the local  council has created a website that educates parents about cigarette smoking and how peer pressure induces teens to begin smoking. Parents who visit this website can learn that their children just want to be like their buddies and appear to be older than they actually are.

When parents in the U.K. and other areas of the world set familial rules about smoking and reinforce them, their children are less likely to take up this habit—a few teens may still begin to smoke, despite parental rules, but this number is lower when parents do enforce their rules against smoking.

You and Your Child’s Doctor Can Talk about Smoking’s Harmful Effects *

As your child grows older, their pediatrician begins to talk to them about risky behaviors (smoking, drug use, unprotected sex, drinking and driving too fast). If your child admits to their doctor that they have begun to smoke, the doctor can intervene.

Ask your doctor if you can be a part of this conversation. When you and your teen hear the same information from the same resource, your child is much more likely to listen to you at home. If you are a part of the doctor-teen conversation, make sure to ask about the effects of smoking on your teen’s cardiovascular system.

Expect Difficult Questions from Your Child *

When you were your teen’s age, did you smoke, drink or use mind-altering substances? These are the questions your teen will ask as a way of diverting attention from their smoking behavior. If you did any of the above, you can be honest in one brief sentence, then return the discussion to your child’s smoking: “Yes, I took up smoking and didn’t realize how harmful it could be. Now let’s talk about you.”

Be honest and real. Your child can sense when you’re trying to hide something and, if you want them to stop, honesty is truly the best way to go. Admit that you made a mistake in taking up smoking.

What should you say if you still smoke? Admit the struggles you have had in trying to quit before. Suggest that you can help each other to quit this habit. Above all, if you still smoke, don’t refer to it as something you do “for fun.

Talk about How Unattractive Smoking Really Is *

“If you want to continue smoking, you need to know these facts: It stains your fingers and teeth; it gives you rotten smoker’s breath; your clothing and hair will smell like smoke every day; and, as you get older, you’ll look older than you really are. Now, do you still want to keep smoking?” If your teen is a girl, she may be more likely to say no, because she wants to look as attractive as possible.

Ask Your Child Why Their Friends Smoke *

Now that you have your child’s attention, this is a great time to find out why they and their friends smoke. You may get some surprising answers:

  •  Marketing
  •  Influence of nicotine
  •  Influences from friends
  •  Social influences

Your teen is more likely to take up smoking when they see family and friends smoking and when they are targeted by marketing from cigarette companies. If they have already begun to smoke, the nicotine makes them dependent.

Educate Yourself First *

Before sitting down with your teen, know the facts about smoking:

  •  Nicotine and other substances can cause brain damage
  •  If a child starts smoking at a very young age, they are more likely to become addicted to nicotine

If you’re not sure where to go to find information, start with the American Cancer Society and your child’s doctor.

Establish Rules about Smoking *

Discuss the situation with your spouse and communicate them to your child. Establish rules about no smoking and write them down. Post them prominently.

Reinforce your rules with consistency so your children won’t get confused or begin thinking you’re not serious.

Understand Who Is the Most Likely to Start Smoking *

Some teens are more likely to begin smoking than others. These include:

  •  Siblings or friends who smoke/use tobacco products
  •  Can get cigarettes easily
  •  Struggling in school
  •  Watch movies that feature smoking
  •  Lack of engagement with school
  •  Use mind-altering substances or alcohol

Make Your Home Tobacco-Free *

Remove all forms of tobacco from your home. If this isn’t realistic, lock them up so your teen can’t get them. Stop asking your teen to bring your cigarettes or other tobacco products to you.

This is the most important step you can take: Stop smoking. Your teen is more likely to smoke if they see you smoking.

Limit Social Media that Encourages Smoking *

Movies, television shows, some video games and social media all glamorize smoking. To reduce the temptation and pressure for your teen, limit how much they are exposed by limiting their access to any of these outlets that feature smoking. If you know they like a particular television program or want to see a movie that’s due for release, pre-screen them before allowing your child to view them. If you see smoking featured, don’t give them permission to see these shows or movies.

Do some research about the video games your child is interested in. If any of the characters smoke, nix this game and don’t buy it.

Have a Strong Support System *

How many influential adults does your teen have in their life? Teachers, neighbors, coaches and even your spiritual adviser can all work to influence your child away from smoking.

Does your child particularly like a medical professional in your life, such as one of your neighbors? Is one of your relatives a doctor or nurse? If so, enlist their help and explain how you have been trying to get your child to stop smoking. A teen activity center can even become an ally for you, especially if your child enjoys going there.

Be On the Lookout for Signs of Smoking *

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your child may give in to peer pressure from the teens in their circle of friends. They begin smoking regularly. You need to know what signs to look for:

  •  New friends you’ve never met
  •  Money is missing from your wallet
  •  Your child breaks long-established rules
  •  They act angry even when you don’t see a cause for this emotion
  •  They smell of smoke
  •  They start denying you access to their bedroom, backpack, dresser and other hiding areas

If you see any of these signs, talk to your spouse and your child’s doctor. You’re going to need more support in helping your child to stop smoking.What to Do if Your Child Starts Smoking


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