teens smoking by wall

Despite its ugly nature, smoking is still considered cool amongst some teens. Learn how to talk to your child about kicking the habit.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 80 percent of adults began smoking before they turned 18.

Thanks to the way it's portrayed in movies and advertisements, many teenagers consider smoking cool or sophisticated. Add in peer pressure and the addictive nature of nicotine, and getting your teen to quit smoking seems like an unachievable uphill battle. But with some patience, influence, and open communication, you can prevent your teen from getting stuck with a lifelong smoking habit.

Set a good example.
Teen smoking is more prevalent among those with parents who smoke. With this kind of influence, you're more likely to get your teen to stop smoking if you quit, too. Don't rely on the parental phrase that every kid hates to hear "do as I say, not as I do." Show them how serious you are by committing to quitting together.

Appeal to the financially-minded.
While most people--including teenagers--are aware of the health costs of smoking, they often overlook the hefty financial price tag. Since the average teen is cash-strapped to begin with, breaking smoking down into numbers might help put their habit in perspective. Have your teen make a list of everything they spend money on, i.e.: clothes, makeup, going to the movies, cell phone, and car. Next, have them make a "wish list" of things they want but can't afford. Then have them do the math. Here's an example--assuming they smoke a pack a day at Rs 50 per pack:

  • Daily: Rs 50
  • Weekly: Rs 350
  • Monthly: Rs 1750
  • Yearly: Rs 18250
  • Five Years: Rs 91250

After five years, the financial cost of smoking is almost Rs 90,000 --which doesn't even take inflation into account!

Appeal to the ego.
Remind your teen that smoking yellows teeth and makes clothes and hair stink. It also causes bad breath and wrinkles.

Talk about the health consequences.
Many teens think they're invincible, and aren't concerned about health issues. Emphasize that smoking can cause heart disease, lung disease, cancer, and even death. Get graphic. They're more likely to quit if the risk of smoking becomes real.

Give them tools to battle peer pressure.
Quite often pressure from peers causes teens to take their first puff. Talk to your teen about what they can say when their friends pressure them to smoke. Help them build an arsenal; take turns coming up with funny or ridiculous refusals. The coolest answer they can give?

"No, thanks, I quit."

Avoid threats and ultimatums.
Since most teens view themselves as adults, threats and ultimatums won't sit well. It's crucial to let your teenager know that you disapprove of smoking, while still respecting their decisions. Generally, your teen doesn't want to disappoint you and is less likely to smoke if they know you disapprove.

Realize it may take several attempts.
Most smokers fail the first few times they try to quit. Nicotine is addictive; it takes a lot of willpower to quit. If your teen quit once, but had a set back, be understanding and supporting. They'll need all the positive reinforcement and encouragement they can get to fight the cravings and addiction.