Teen smoking might begin innocently, but it can become a long-term problem. In fact, most adult smokers begin smoking as teenagers. Your best bet? Stop your teen from taking that first puff.
Follow these tips to help prevent teen smoking.
Understand the attraction
Teen smoking can be a form of rebellion or a way to fit in with a particular group of friends.
Some teens light up in an attempt to lose weight or to feel better about themselves.
Others smoke to feel cool or independent. Ask your teen how he or she feels about smoking and if any of your teen’s friends smoke.
Applaud your teen’s good choices, and talk about the consequences of bad choices.
You might also talk with your teen about how tobacco companies try to influence ideas about smoking — such as showing smoking in movies to create the perception that it’s glamorous.
Say no to teen smoking
You might feel as if your teen doesn’t hear a word you say, but say it anyway.
Tell your teen that smoking isn’t allowed. Your disapproval might have more impact than you think.
Teens whose parents set the firmest smoking restrictions tend to smoke less than do teens whose parents don’t set smoking limits.
The same goes for teens who feel close to their parents.
Set a good example
Teen smoking is more common among teens whose parents smoke. If you don’t smoke, keep it up.
If you do smoke, quit — now. The earlier you stop smoking, the less likely your teen is to become a smoker.
Ask your doctor about ways to stop smoking. In the meantime, don’t smoke in the house, in the car or in front of your teen, and don’t leave cigarettes where your teen might find them.
Explain how unhappy you are with your smoking, how difficult it is to quit and that you’ll keep trying until you stop smoking for good.
Appeal to your teen’s vanity
Smoking isn’t glamorous. Remind your teen that smoking is dirty and smelly.
Smoking gives you bad breath and wrinkles. Smoking makes your clothes and hair smell, and it turns your teeth yellow.
Smoking can leave you with a chronic cough and less energy for sports and other enjoyable activities.
Do the math
Smoking is expensive.
Help your teen calculate the weekly, monthly or yearly cost of smoking a pack a day.
You might compare the cost of smoking with that of electronic gadgets, clothes or other teen essentials.
Expect peer pressure
Friends who smoke can be convincing, but you can give your teen the tools he or she needs to refuse cigarettes.
Rehearse how to handle tough social situations.
It might be as simple as saying, “No thanks, I don’t smoke.”
The more your teen practices this basic refusal, the more likely he or she will say no at the moment of truth.
Take addiction seriously
Most teens believe they can stop smoking anytime they want.
Teens, however, become just as addicted to tobacco as do adults — often quickly and at relatively low doses of nicotine.
Once you’re hooked, it’s tough to quit.
Predict the future
Teens tend to assume that bad things only happen to other people.
Explain the potential long-term consequences of smoking — such as cancer, heart attack and stroke.
Use loved ones, friends, neighbors or celebrities who’ve been ill as real-life examples.
Think beyond cigarettes
Smokeless tobacco, clove cigarettes (kreteks) and candy-flavored cigarettes (bidis) are sometimes mistaken as less harmful or addictive than are traditional cigarettes.
Hookah smoking — smoking tobacco through a water pipe — is another alternative sometimes touted as safe.
Don’t let your teen be fooled. Like traditional cigarettes, these products are addictive and can cause cancer and other health problems.
Many deliver higher concentrations of nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar than do traditional cigarettes.
Take an active stance against teen smoking. Participate in local and school-sponsored anti-smoking campaigns.
Support efforts to make public places smoke-free and increase taxes on tobacco products, which can help reduce the odds that your teen will become a smoker.
If your teen has already started smoking, avoid threats and ultimatums.
Instead, find out why your teen is smoking — and discuss ways to help your teen quit.
Avoiding or stopping smoking is one of the best things your teen can do for a lifetime of good health.