Talk to your kids about smoking

Cigarette smoking is the most preventable cause of disease and death. Even so, many teens take up the habit each day. Your influence can help keep your children smoke-free.

You may be wary of talking to your children too much about smoking. After all, kids seem to like trying things their parents tell them not to. But you can make a difference. These tips can help you influence your children to stay smoke-free:

Be a positive role model. Don't smoke. And quit if you do—watching a parent's struggle to quit can be a powerful message for kids, says the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Focus on the present. Tell your kids the harmful effects smoking will have on them now. For example, smoking costs a lot of money. This calculator can show them how even one cigarette a day adds up.

Other immediate adverse affects include:

  • Yellow teeth.
  • Bad breath.
  • Smelly clothes.
  • Decreased athletic ability.
  • Coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing and chest infections.

Talk about peer pressure. Many kids start smoking with their friends. Ask your children whether their friends smoke. Help them find ways to deal with any peer pressure they face.

For example, if they're offered cigarettes, suggest that your children say, "No thanks, I need to stay in shape for basketball," or, "I don't really want yellow teeth and bad breath."

Another good way to help your children fight peer pressure is to teach them to make their own responsible decisions.

Letting young kids make choices such as what to wear to school or whether to try out for a sport can help them become confident decision-makers who can say no if offered cigarettes.

Start early. Talk to your children about smoking before it becomes an issue. It's never too early to start.

If, despite your efforts at prevention, your children start smoking, don't give up on them. Let them know that while you don't approve of smoking, you still love and accept them. Once you've let them know how you feel about smoking, don't nag them about it.

Instead, have them talk with your family doctor. Your child may be more receptive to a doctor's stop-smoking message.

Reviewed 3/14/2022

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