Tips for Talking to Kids About Smoking
- Smoking is glamorized in movies, television shows and online, 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, use e-cigarettes (e.g., "vaping" and "juuling") or use any type of tobacco product. Give them clear, consistent messages about the risks of these products. Tell them all the different products this includes, and if they aren't sure—ask.
- 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 by 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).
- Youth are using e-cigarettes at increasing and alarming rates so make sure you talk to your kids about these as well. The U.S. Surgeon General has declared e-cigarette use among youth an epidemic, with rates increasing 78 percent from 2017 to 2018 among high school students and more teens using e-cigarettes than combustible cigarettes.
- Set a good example for your kids by not smoking or using tobacco in any form. 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 or vape. Talk with your kids about ways to refuse a cigarette or e-cigarette.
- If you catch your teen smoking or vaping, avoid threats and ultimatums. Ask a few questions and find out why your child is smoking or vaping; they 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 them stop smoking.
- As you talk to your child about their smoking or vaping, 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. The tobacco industry also aggressively markets e-cigarettes to youth, glamorizing e-cigarette use in advertisements and offering e-cigarettes in candy flavors like bubble gum and gummy bears. Ask your child to think about how they've been targeted, manipulated and used by tobacco companies. This realization makes many teen smokers angry and can help motivate them to quit.
Visit Freedom From Smoking to learn more about our proven quit-smoking program or call 1-800-LUNGUSA to talk to a specialist at our Lung HelpLine.
Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel. Last reviewed February 25, 2019.
Page Last Updated: March 4, 2019
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