Talking To Your Children About Tobacco

Talking to your children about tobacco use can be a difficult task. Many parents do not know where to start, or what to say once they sit down to have the conversation with their kids. Despite these reservations, it is vital that parents talk to their children about smoking and tobacco use because they are the most important influence in their children’s lives.

First and foremost, parents need to set a good example for their children by not smoking. Parents should reinforce that example by sending a clear message to their children that they should not smoke and talk with their children about the health risks of smoking and tobacco use. Parents should be proactive and start talking to their children early about smoking and tobacco use.

Tobacco companies target young people in their advertising and try to make smoking as appealing as possible. In addition, smoking is prevalent in many movies and television shows and sends a message to children that tobacco use is widespread. By talking to their children early and often about smoking and tobacco use, parents can set the record straight about smoking and prevent their children from picking up a deadly habit.

What Parents Can Do To Protect Their Children From Tobacco

  • Tell your children honestly and directly that you don't want them to smoke cigarettes. Give them clear, consistent messages about the risks of smoking.
  • Start talking to your kids about smoking when they are five or six years old and continue through their high school years. Many kids start smoking at age 11 and some are addicted by age 14. Explain the health dangers, as well as the unpleasant physical aspects (such as bad breath, discolored teeth and nails), of smoking. 
  • Set a good example for your kids by not smoking. Parents who smoke are more likely to have children who smoke.   
  • Establish a smoke-free policy in your home. Don't allow anyone to smoke indoors at any time. 
  • Make sure that the events that your children attend are smoke-free. 
  • Support tobacco-free schools and insist that school health programs include tobacco-use prevention education. 
  • Know if your children have any friends that smoke. Talk with your kids about ways to refuse a cigarette. 
  • If you caught your teen smoking, try to avoid threats and ultimatums. Ask a few questions and find out why your child is smoking; he or she may want to be accepted by a peer group, or want your attention.  Talk about what changes can be made in his or her life to help your child stop smoking.