Teen smoking: 10 ways to keep teens smoke-free

Want to prevent teen smoking? Understand why teens smoke and how to talk to your teen about cigarettes. By Mayo Clinic Staff

Teen smoking might begin innocently, but it can become a long-term problem. In fact, most adult smokers begin smoking as teenagers. Your best bet? Help your teen avoid taking that first puff. Follow these tips to help prevent teen smoking.

1. Set a good example

Teen smoking is more common among teens whose parents smoke. If you don't smoke, keep it up. If you do smoke, quit — now. The earlier you stop smoking, the less likely your teen is to become a smoker. Ask your doctor about ways to stop smoking.

In the meantime, don't smoke in the house, in the car or in front of your teen, and don't leave cigarettes where your teen might find them. Explain to your teen how unhappy you are with your smoking, how difficult it is to quit and that you'll keep trying until you stop smoking for good.

2. Understand the attraction

Teen smoking can be a form of rebellion or a way to fit in with a particular group of friends. Some teens begin smoking to control their weight. Others smoke to feel cool or independent.

Ask your teen how he or she feels about smoking and if any of your teen's friends smoke. Applaud your teen's good choices, and talk about the consequences of bad choices. You might also talk with your teen about how tobacco companies try to influence ideas about smoking — such as through advertisements or product placement in the movies that create the perception that smoking is glamorous and more prevalent than it really is.

3. Say no to teen smoking

You might feel as if your teen doesn't hear a word you say, but say it anyway. Tell your teen that smoking isn't allowed. Your disapproval will have more impact than you think. Teens whose parents set the firmest smoking restrictions tend to smoke less than do teens whose parents don't set smoking limits. The same goes for teens who feel close to their parents.

4. Appeal to your teen's vanity

Smoking isn't glamorous. Remind your teen that smoking is dirty and smelly. Smoking gives you bad breath and wrinkles. Smoking makes your clothes and hair smell, and it turns your teeth yellow. Smoking can leave you with a chronic cough and less energy for sports and other enjoyable activities.

5. Do the math

Smoking is expensive. Help your teen calculate the weekly, monthly or yearly cost of smoking a pack a day. You might compare the cost of smoking with that of electronic devices, clothes or other teen essentials.

Nov. 10, 2012 See more In-depth