Support for youth

Most people want their children to remain smoke-free. We all know it impacts their health negatively, and the longer you smoke, the more damage it causes. Furthermore, studies have shown that teen smokers turn into adult smokers. Most smokers begin smoking before the age of 19; if young people can stay smoke-free until age 19, they are likely to stay smoke-free for the rest of their lives.

Here are some tips to support your teen to quit and stay smoke-free (or never start smoking).

Be a good example.

Because children learn from and emulate the adults in their life, setting an example by being smoke-free is the best way to encourage your child to be smokefree. If you smoke, your teen will learn that it’s OK to smoke. Always remember: your actions speak louder than your words. If you smoke, we encourage you to connect with the Smokers’ Helpline to learn more about supports available to help you quit. In the meantime, refrain from smoking in the house or in front of your teen, and let them know that you’re looking at quitting. You may discuss your past struggles with overcoming the addiction in a way that they may understand.

Talk to them about smoking before they start.

It is very important to discuss the subject of tobacco addiction with children of all ages. Talking with your kids can help them avoid succumbing to peer pressure and the other numerous influences that lead to smoking. You also want to make sure that they are well informed with facts, rather than the common myths about smoking. Keeping an open dialogue will give you the opportunity to correct any false information your children may have picked up.We understand that starting a conversation with a child about smoking may be a little difficult. Here are some suggestions to help you get started. (Click for more tips.)

  • Ask the child what they know about smoking and addiction.
  • Inform them of how easily people can become addicted to nicotine (80% or people who try smoking two or more cigarettes become hooked for life).
  • Educate them about the dangers of smoking and how it affects the body.
  • Discuss the advantages of being smoke free. If the child is involved in sports, talk about how smoking causes shortness of breath and makes it difficult to play as long as they would like.
  • Show them how expensive smoking is with the smoking calculator. Compare the monthly costs with the purchase price of things your child may want to buy.

How to say “No” to smoking

Peer pressure is an important fact of growing up. Studies have found that kids will change their behaviour in order to fit in. Resisting peer pressure is a challenge and takes a bit of practice and guts. This is where a parent can help. You can go over some lines that work, and even role-play with your kid, until they feel comfortable with the lines that work for them. Here are some suggestions:

  • “No, thanks.”
  • “Yellow skin and teeth don’t go with my complexion.”
  • “It’s not cool anymore. Haven’t you heard?”
  • “Why would I do that when everyone else is trying to quit?”
  • “I like my lungs.”
  • “I’d rather spend my money on (movies, video games, saving for a trip, etc.).” Look at the high cost of smoking. Use the Savings Calculator to see just how much smoking costs over a week, a month or a year.
  • “I’m into sports and don’t want to mess that up.”

If your teen is already smoking

  • Stay calm and nonjudgmental. You want your child to be comfortable talking to you about anything.
  • Being supportive works better than being threatening and issuing commands.
  • Ask your teen why they started smoking. Perhaps it was peer pressure and they wanted to fit in. Or they wanted to look cool or more grown up. If you understand why your teen is smoking, you’ll have a better idea about how you can help them quit.
  • Encourage your child to talk with you about the pressures they may be facing.
  • Since young kids often feel immortal, appealing to your child’s vanity will often work better than warning them of health dangers.  If the child is concerned with his or her appearance, mention that smoking stains their hands, causes yellow teeth, bad breath, stinky clothes, and prevents acne from healing.
  • Listen. Ask how you can help them quit smoking and remain smoke-free.

Remember to keep the lines of communication open and to continue talking about smoking. Peer pressure and tough choices continue throughout adolescence right into adulthood.

Help your teen make a quit-smoking plan.

Your teen may think they can quit at any time, but research shows this isn’t true; they may quickly become addicted and have just as much difficulty quitting as an adult. They may need help finding the resources and support they need to quit. You can help them make a quit-smoking plan. Discuss addiction. Have a plan to manage the withdrawal symptoms. Create lists for how to deal with cravings and other activities they can do to replace smoking. The more prepared they are, the better their chances of quitting will be.

Celebrate success with your teen.

This is the fun stuff. Rewards and positive reinforcement go along way to motivate and make new habits stick. Do what your teen enjoys; you might go to a movie, or a meal, together. Or you can offer a concert or a party with non-smoking friends.If your teen slips, do continue to be supportive. Encourage them to not give up, explaining that they learned a great deal about their quit process. You can work with them to identify the cause of the slip up, and come up with a plan for how to do things differently next time.

The Helpline offers valuable tips/advice and interesting features for people of all ages! Encourage your teen to connect with us by phone (call 1-800-363-5864 or the number on the cigarette pack), online (smokershelp.net), email (shl@nf.lung.ca) or text (709)700-7002.