Teens who smoke become adults who smoke, and 90 percent of adults who are regular smokers started smoking before the age of 18. Most teens don’t fully understand the risks associated with smoking or the time it takes to quit. The average person who started smoking as a teen will smoke for 16 to 20 years before being able to successfully quit.
Don't Get Angry
If you discover that your teen is smoking, it is important to talk openly and calmly about it. Anger and threats won’t convince anyone to quit—especially a teenager. Instead, be supportive and ask questions. Find out how he or she started and why he or she continues to do it. You will be better prepared to tackle the problem when you understand why your teenager picked up a cigarette in the first place—because friends are doing it, because it looks cool, or because of simple curiosity. After you find out what's driving your teen to smoke, talk to him or her about how the consequences outweigh any and all short-term benefits.
Talk About What’s Important to Teens
You can throw out statistics about cancer and lung disease all day, but those concerns are not foremost in your teen’s mind. What is important—looks, friends, being cool, or flirting and dating. Explain that the smell of smoke seeps into hair and clothes and causes them to smell bad, which is not conducive to a successful dating life. Nicotine and cigarette smoke causes bad breath and yellow teeth, which aren’t attractive or cool to anyone. Smoking may also causes fatigue, so while friends are watching a movie or enjoying a game, your teenager may be too exhausted to leave the house.
Help Your Teen Make a Plan
And be a central part of it. Help your teenager anticipate situations where he or she may be pressured to light up again, and help script a response so they can turn down the cigarette without getting nervous. If you feel like more help is needed, set up an appointment with a doctor or quitting coach. Then celebrate as your teen reaches each milestone on the path to being smoke free.