Stopping the smoke - help your child to quit

Despite a drop in the number of kids smoking, far too many of them are still taking up the habit. What are the signs you should look out for and how can you put your child starting at all?

First the good news: the number of children smoking in the US has dropped in the last decade. In 1995, around 35% of high school students smoked regularly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – now around 23% of high-school age children reportedly smoke and 8% of middle school students do.

This decrease in smoking among adolescents is likely due to campaigns and policies against smoking – but despite this move in the right direction teens are still taking up the habit, with girls much more likely to do so. Research from the University of Florida has suggested there may be a connection between teen girls dieting and taking up smoking – the fact that nicotine is a well-known appetite suppressant may be the reason why girls are more at risk. So what are the signs you should be on the lookout for and what steps can you take to put your child off smoking or help her quit the habit?

In the US in 2007, 280,689 kids became regular smokers. 89,807 will die prematurely from their addiction.

Signs that your child may be smoking

Kids can be pretty adept at hiding the signs but be on your guard for:

• Bad breath

• Stained teeth

• The smell of cigarette smoke on your child’s clothes

• Coughing and a sore throat that may cause hoarseness

• Breathlessness after exercising or engaging in sports

• More frequent colds

Teens who believe their parents will disapprove of their smoking are less than half as likely to smoke as teens who think their parents do not care, according to the American Cancer Society.

Talking about smoking

According to the American Cancer Society, most kids who start smoking see it as a short-term venture and reckon it’ll be easy to kick the habit. The reality is that more than half of them will still be smoking seven to nine years later and that one third of children who smoke will eventually die from cancer, lung disease or heart disease. They also have a higher risk of developing asthma in adolescence. But it’s important not to overreact if you’re suspicious that your child is smoking – instead see it as an opportunity to calmly and rationally discuss the risks of smoking with your child without lecturing her..

• Find out what it is about smoking that appeals to her – for example, she may think it makes her look cool and mature.

• Touch on the downsides: the financial cost (here it might help to point out how much she could buy in the way of cosmetics, new clothes and CDs with all the money she’s likely to spend on cigarettes), its potential impact on her physical fitness and her looks.

• Role-play to work out ways she can resist peer pressure to do it.

• Make it clear that cigars and chewing tobacco are just as dangerous as cigarettes.

Helping her to quit

Nicotine is an addictive drug, as far too many of us already know – and that makes quitting difficult even for kids. Work out a quitting plan and be as understanding as you can about any withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, irritability and difficulty sleeping. Constantly reinforce your child’s decision to quit and remind her about the health benefits of doing so. It may be worth speaking to your physician about using over-the-counter and prescription gums and patches to help your child through this time.

Related links

Teenage life - managing their mobile...Sooner or later your teen will announce she feels it’s time she had a mobile phone. It’s a good security measure – but is she old enough to use it responsibly?

Teaching your teen to manage money...Your teenager’s first job is an exciting step on the road to financial independence – but only if you teach him to manage his money.

Eating right - the teenage years! The teen years can be hell when it comes to food, but it's more important than ever to eat well. Supernanny expert Yvonne Wake explains why....

Could my Child Have an Eating Disorder? In this article, beat, the national support organisation for people with eating disorders, shows how parents can support their children and help to treat an eating disorder, one small step at a time…

Find out more

QUIT is the independent charity whose aim is to save lives by helping smokers to stop.

Related Advice