Parental Guidance


Talk to Your Kids

What can parents do to stop their teens from smoking? It is important for parents to talk to their kids. Children whose parents do not talk to them regularly are at greater risk for experimenting with cigarettes (Kowalski, 13). Make a point of discussing your children’s lives and feelings. Ask them how their day went and/or if they experienced or learned anything new. Make sure you know their friends (and the friends’ parents). This will help you find out whether any of their friends are smoking, so you can talk about it with your own child.

Decode Advertisements

Help your child decode advertisements. Parents can begin as early as the fourth or fifth grade, when children may first become susceptible to the images in cigarette advertisements. Urge them to identify seductive images. Tell your child what the advertisers are intending to do by displaying the advertisements. Explain to them the warning label that must be put on all cigarette advertisements, and why the government requires it.

Good Health

Emphasize the significance of good health. Although kids are notoriously unconcerned about getting sick, tell them the consequences. Show them pictures of what tobacco does to the heart and the lungs. Scare tactics are a great way to show teenagers the damage tobacco causes. Tell them that teenage smokers have weaker lungs, cough more, and suffer worse upper-respiratory infections (Munson, 90). Young athletes do not perform as well if they smoke due to shortness of breath. Also, the more years a person smokes, the greater is the risk of lung cancer in middle age(Kowalski, 14).

Help Say No

Help your teenager to say no in pressuring situations. Give them reasons to tell their friends why smoking is not cool. As best you can, play the part of an admired friend or acquaintance trying to get your teenager to try a cigarette. Help them to work out ways to turn down the offer. By teaching your child to say no at home, they can be more confident in dealing with real situations.

Set a Good Example

It is important for parents to set a good example for their children by not smoking. If you are a smoker and are unable or unwilling to quit, at least explain to your children that you are in the grip of a fearsome addiction--and hide your cigarettes. Smoke less in front of your children and make their rooms smoke-free zones. Remember that passive smoke contains higher concentrations of toxic and cancer causing-chemicals than smoke inhaled directly (Hall, 33). By exposing your child to your cigarette smoke, you are punishing them internally. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that annually about 3,000 nonsmokers die of lung cancer; other reports estimate that about 37,000 people die of heart attacks caused by passive smoking. Passive smoke from parents is 100% avoidable.

Impose Consequences

Lastly, impose consequences to smoking teenagers. If, in spite of your efforts, you find your child experimenting with cigarettes, do not treat it as a minor kids-will-be-kids infraction. Treat it as what it is: an act that puts your child at very high risk of developing a life-threatening addiction. Impose whatever sanctions your family uses for a major misdeed--and do not back down on your punishments. Keep in mind that you are trying to help them not hurt themselves.

Continue to What Can Be Done?

Created by: Tracy Lynn Wise
E-mail: twise@ufl.edu