Tips for Parents

Even though smoking is glamorized in movies and television, remember that parents are the most important in their children's lives. Tell your children honestly and directly that you don't want them to smoke cigarettes. Give them clear, consistent messages about the risks of smoking.

Start talking to your kids about smoking when they are five or six years old and continue through their high school years. Many kids start smoking at age 11 and some are addicted by age 14. Explain the health dangers, as well as the unpleasant physical aspects (such as bad breath, discolored teeth and nails), of smoking.

  • Set a good example for your kids by not smoking. Parents who smoke are more likely to have children who smoke. If you're a parent who smokes, the best thing you can do is quit. Talk to your kids about how difficult it is to quit smoking and how much easier it would have been if you'd never started smoking in the first place. In the meantime, don't smoke around your children and don't ever let them have any of your cigarettes.
  • Establish a smoke-free policy in your home. Don't allow anyone to smoke indoors at any time.
  • Make sure the events you children attend are smoke-free.
  • Support tobacco-free schools and insist that school health programs include tobacco-use prevention education.
  • Know if your children have any friends that smoke. Talk with your kids about ways to refuse a cigarette. If you find out that your teenager has already started smoking, your first reaction may be to order him or her to quit immediately. It's important to realize that teen smokers become addicted to nicotine very quickly, and that can make quitting very difficult. Be patient and supportive as your child goes through the quitting process.
  • If you caught your teen smoking, try to avoid threats and ultimatums. Ask a few questions and find out why your child is smoking; he or she may want to be accepted by a peer group, or want your attention. Talk about what changes can be made in his or her life to help your child stop smoking.
  • As you talk to your child about their smoking, point out that he or she is probably already addicted to nicotine. The tobacco industry spends billions of dollars each year to make sure their products are as appealing and as addictive as possible. Ask your child to think about how they've been manipulated and used by tobacco companies. This realization makes many teen smokers angry and can help their motivation to quit.

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Permission granted for use and adapted from the American Lung Association©