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Tips for Talking to Kids About Smoking

  • Smoking is glamorized in movies and television shows, but parents are the most important influences in their children's lives.
  • 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 5 or 6 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 of smoking, as well as the unpleasant physical aspects (such as bad breath, discolored teeth and nails).
  • Set a good example for your kids by not smoking. Parents who smoke are more likely to have children who smoke.
  • If you're a parent who smokes, the best thing you can do is to quit. Talk to your kids about how difficult it is to quit smoking and how much easier it would have been if you'd never started smoking in the first place. In the meantime, don't smoke around your children and don’t ever let them have any of your cigarettes.
  • Establish a smokefree policy in your home. Don't allow anyone to smoke indoors at any time.
  • Make sure that the events that your children attend are smokefree.
  • Support tobacco-free schools and insist that school health programs include tobacco-use prevention education.
  • Find out if your children have any friends that smoke. Talk with your kids about ways to refuse a cigarette.
  • If you catch your teen smoking, 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 your teen’s life to help him or her stop smoking.
  • As you talk to your child about their smoking, point out that he or she is probably already addicted to nicotine. The tobacco industry spends billions of dollars each year to make sure their products are as appealing and as addictive as possible. Ask your child to think about how they’ve been manipulated and used by tobacco companies. This realization makes many teen smokers angry and can help motivate them to quit.

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