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How To Help Your Teen Stop Smoking

Adolescent smoking is a BIG issue, because adolescents who smoke are likely to turn into grown-ups who smoke. If you find your adolescent smoking, take it seriously. Stopping adolescent smoking in its tracks is the best way to promote a lifetime of good health. Adolescent smoking might begin innocently, but it can become a long-term problem. Help your teenage son or daughter avoid taking that first puff, or to stop smoking if he or she has already started the habit.

Follow these parenting tips to help stop - or prevent - adolescent smoking:

1. Adolescent smoking can be a form of rebellion or a way to fit in with a particular group of peers. Some adolescents begin smoking to control their weight. Others smoke to feel cool or independent. Ask your adolescent how she feels about smoking and if any of your adolescent's friends smoke. Applaud your adolescent's good choices, and talk about the consequences of bad choices.

2. Adolescent smoking is more common among adolescents whose moms and dads smoke. If you don't smoke, keep it up. If you do smoke, quit — now. The earlier you stop smoking, the less likely your adolescent is to become a smoker. Ask a health professional about ways to stop smoking. In the meantime, don't smoke in the house, in the car or in front of your adolescent, and don't leave cigarettes where your adolescent might find them. Explain to your adolescent 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.

3. Adolescents can become addicted to nicotine surprisingly quickly — sometimes within just a few weeks of experimenting with smoking. While many adolescents who smoke think they can stop anytime, research shows this isn't usually true. When you talk to your adolescent about stopping smoking, ask if any of his friends have tried to stop smoking. Consider why they were — or weren't — successful. Then ask your adolescent which stop-smoking strategies he thinks might be most helpful.

4. Adolescents tend to assume that bad things happen only to other people. Most adolescents think cancer, heart attacks and strokes occur only in the abstract. Use loved ones, friends, neighbors or celebrities who've been ill as real-life examples.

5. Although nicotine replacement products (e.g., nicotine gums, patches, inhalers or nasal sprays) weren't designed for adolescents, they might be helpful in some cases. Ask your adolescent's doctor which options might be best for your adolescent.

6. Although the consequences of smoking (e.g., cancer, heart attack and stroke) are real, they're probably beyond the realm of your adolescent's concern. Rather than lecturing your adolescent on the long-term dangers of smoking, ask your adolescent what she considers the negative aspects of smoking. Once your adolescent has had her say, offer your own list of negatives.

7. Celebrate your adolescent's success. You might offer a favorite meal for a smoke-free day, a new shirt for a smoke-free week, or a party with nonsmoking buddies for a smoke-free month. Rewards and positive reinforcement can help your adolescent maintain the motivation to stop smoking for good.

8. Contact a tobacco-cessation specialist. A tobacco-cessation specialist can give your adolescent the tools and support she needs to stop smoking. Some hospitals and local organizations offer stop-smoking groups just for adolescents. You might look for adolescent groups online, too. Web-based programs can also provide support for your adolescent whenever she needs it.

9. Encourage your adolescent to write down why he wants to stop smoking. The list can help your adolescent stay motivated when temptation arises.

10. Help your adolescent choose a date to stop smoking. Avoid placing the stop date during a stressful time (e.g., during final exams).

11. If your adolescent feels pressured to smoke, encourage him to get involved in new activities. Making new friends who don't smoke could make it easier to avoid friends who aren't willing to stop smoking.

12. If your adolescent has already started smoking, avoid threats and ultimatums. Instead, find out why your adolescent is smoking, and discuss ways to help your adolescent quit.

13. If your adolescent slips, remain supportive. Congratulate your adolescent on the progress she has made so far, and encourage your adolescent not to give up. Help your adolescent identify what went wrong and what to do differently next time.

14. Instead of getting angry, be curious and supportive. Ask your adolescent what made her start smoking. Perhaps your adolescent is trying to fit in at school, or maybe your adolescent thinks that smoking will help relieve stress. Sometimes adolescent smoking is an attempt to feel cool or more grown-up. Once you understand why your adolescent is smoking, you'll be better equipped to address smoking as a potential problem — as well as help your adolescent eventually stop smoking.

15. Most adolescents believe occasional smoking won't cause them to become addicted and that, if they become regular smokers, they can stop smoking anytime they want. Adolescents, however, can become addicted with intermittent and relatively low levels of smoking. Remind your adolescent that most adult smokers start as adolescents. Once you're hooked, it's tough to quit.

16. Participate in local and school-sponsored smoking prevention campaigns.

17. Peer pressure to smoke might be inevitable, but your adolescent doesn't need to give in. Help your adolescent practice saying, "No thanks, I don't smoke." Peers who smoke can be convincing, but you can give your adolescent the tools he needs to stay away from people who smoke. Rehearse how to handle tough social situations. It might be as simple as walking away from friends who are puffing away.

18. Prompt your adolescent to calculate the weekly, monthly or yearly cost of smoking. You might compare the cost of smoking with electronic devices, clothes or other items your adolescent considers important.

19. Remind your adolescent that if she can hold out long enough — usually just a few minutes — the nicotine craving will pass. Suggest taking a few deep breaths. Offer sugarless gum, cinnamon sticks, toothpicks or straws to help your adolescent keep her mouth busy.

20. Smokeless tobacco, clove cigarettes and candy-flavored cigarettes are sometimes mistaken as less harmful or addictive than are traditional cigarettes. Adolescents also often think that water pipe smoking is safe. Nothing could be further from the truth. Don't let your adolescent be fooled.

21. Smoking isn't glamorous. Remind your adolescent 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.

22. Support efforts to make public places smoke-free and increase taxes on tobacco products.

23. Talk with your adolescent about how tobacco companies try to influence ideas about smoking (e.g., through advertisements or product placement in the movies that create the perception that smoking is glamorous and more prevalent than it really is).

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

25. Consider appealing to your adolescent's vanity. Smoking:
  • causes wrinkles
  • gives you bad breath
  • leaves you with a hacking cough
  • makes your clothes and hair smell
  • turns your teeth and fingernails yellow
  • zaps your energy for sports and other activities

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

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