Teen smoking: 10 ways to keep teens smoke-free

Want to prevent teen smoking? Understand why teens smoke and vape — and how to talk to your teen about nicotine.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Teen smoking might begin innocently, but it can become a long-term problem. In fact, most adult smokers started smoking as teens. To help your teen avoid getting hooked, follow these tips.

1. Set a good example

Teen smoking is more common among teens whose parents smoke. If you smoke, quit. Ask your doctor about ways to stop smoking.

In the meantime, don't smoke in front of your teen and don't leave smoking materials around your home. 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. Teens may smoke to feel cool or independent.

Ask your teen what he or she knows about smoking and using electronic cigarettes (vaping), and if any of your teen's friends smoke or vape.

Talk with your teen about how tobacco companies try to influence ideas about smoking — such as through advertisements or product placement in movies that create the perception that smoking is glamorous, sexy and mature.

3. Say no

You might feel as if your teen doesn't hear a word you say, but say it anyway. Tell your teen that smoking and vaping aren't allowed. Your disapproval will have more impact than you think.

4. Think beyond cigarettes

Teens often think that electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), as well as smokeless tobacco, clove cigarettes (kreteks), candy-flavored cigarettes (bidis) and water pipes (hookahs), are less harmful or addictive than are traditional cigarettes. But they all carry health risks.

E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that heat a liquid (usually but not always containing nicotine), turning it into a vapor that can be inhaled. Research suggests that e-cigarettes cause users to inhale potentially harmful chemicals. E-cigarettes can also get teens hooked on nicotine and make the use of tobacco products seem normal, which could lead to the use of cigarettes.

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people stop using e-cigarette products while the organization investigates the cause of serious lung illnesses associated with the use of vaping devices.

5. Appeal to your teen's vanity

Remind your teen that smoking gives you bad breath. It makes your clothes and hair smell, and it turns your fingers and teeth yellow. Smoking can also leave you with a chronic cough.

6. Do the math

Smoking is expensive. Help your teen calculate the weekly, monthly or yearly cost of smoking or vaping every day. You might compare the cost of smoking with that of smart phones, clothes or other teen essentials.

7. Expect peer pressure

Give your teen the tools he or she needs to refuse cigarettes. Rehearse how to handle tough social situations. It might be as simple as saying, "No thanks. I don't smoke."

8. Take addiction seriously

Most teens believe that occasional smoking won't cause them to become addicted and that, if they become regular smokers, they can stop smoking anytime they want. Teens, however, can become addicted after smoking as few as five packs of cigarettes. Remind your teen that most adult smokers start as teens. Once you're hooked, it's tough to quit.

9. Consider the future

Teens tend to assume that bad things happen only to other people. Use loved ones, friends, neighbors or celebrities who've had tobacco-related illnesses as real-life examples of the harm tobacco use can cause.

10. Get involved

Take an active stance against teen smoking. Participate in local and school-sponsored smoking prevention campaigns. Support efforts to make public places smoke-free and increase taxes on tobacco products.

Talk to your teen early and often about the dangers of smoking and vaping. Avoiding smoking is one of the best things your teen can do for a lifetime of good health.

Sept. 12, 2019 See more In-depth