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Youth Tobacco Prevention- Beneficial Tips and Suggestions

Updated on November 30, 2014

Youth tobacco prevention is something that everyone should be worried about, whether you are a parent, a teacher or simply a concerned citizen.

The smoking rate amongst high school students has remained stable since 2003. It sits at around 20 percent. Between the years of 1997 and 2003 there was a dramatic decline in the number of youths who smoked.

What this means is that we are in a holding pattern. This is not necessarily a good thing. We are raging an ongoing battle with the big tobacco companies who continue to target kids in their campaigns. Our best offence to protect our youth is education and the presentation of factual information to our kids.

If you have not had a discussion concerning tobacco prevention with your kids then this is a good time to have one. Read on for some beneficial tips and suggestions to help get you started.

Set the Best Example Possible

Mahatma Gandhi was once quoted as saying, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” You do this by leading by example. Are you setting the best example possible for your children to follow?

If you smoke yourself then having a tobacco prevention conversation with your kid(s) about the dangers of smoking makes you look like- dare we say it- a hypocrite. Teenagers are not so good at listening to advice as it is but coming from a parent who does not practice what they preach makes it all the more likely to be ignored advice.

If you have children then make quitting smoking a priority in your life. Consider using hypnosis to stop smoking. It is a safe, effective and natural way to quit that does not involve any type of drugs. Keep in mind too that the act of quitting also conveys how serious and concerned you are for your children’s future.

What Cigarette Products are Made Of

Make sure your kids understand that cigarettes contain awful ingredients such as tar, carbon monoxide, DDT, arsenic and formaldehyde that do them nothing but harm. These are not substances that should be put into the body, and in fact, when we find these materials elsewhere, we get away from them as fast as we can! Gone in 60 seconds!

Explain to your kids what these substances can do to the body, both in the long-term and the short-term. If they have questions then be prepared to provide them with the answers they need to make the best decisions possible.

Quitting is Not a Simple Task

Make sure you drive the point home that quitting once smoking becomes a habit is not an easy thing to do. Explain to your kids that nicotine is a highly addictive substance. This is one of those discussions that will go better if you can talk from experience, and be open and honest about what you went through when you quit.

Nicotine withdrawal is rarely a pleasant experience and having them understand the challenges ahead if they choose the smoking path is critical to any youth tobacco prevention program.

In the same way, tell them that smoking brings about a physical as well as a psychological dependence that is tough to break. Make sure they understand that smoking is not something that you can give up on a whim. Instead it takes lots of hard work, commitment and is an uphill battle at the best of times.

Alternatively, if you’ve never smoked then look for people in your own family or within your circle of friends who have stopped smoking and who are willing to share their stories of quitting with your kids.

Let Honesty about the Risks Lead You

Be as honest as possible but do not attempt to scare your kids with over the top stories about how smoking will kill them and how it is a terrible thing to do (even though you know it is!).

Kids don’t die from smoking and smokers are not bad people performing a terrible act. Such talk is likely to undermine your ability to get them to listen to you about the realistic risks of smoking and possible outcomes in later life.

Explain what the risks really are and make sure they understand. Always keep it factual and informative. The fact is that the risks of smoking are intense enough and don’t need over-elaboration to ensure abstinence.

The Cost Factor

I have rarely found the cost of smoking to be a compelling argument for adult smokers to quit. But as part of tobacco prevention for youth if they can do the math then it can be a deterrent to getting started.

Kids have many things competing for their limited money supply, and if you can concentrate on putting the cost in monthly and yearly terms then this argument could hold some weight. Suddenly you will be talking their language which should cause them to sit up straighter and pay more attention!

Take them to the local store and let them price out cigarettes. Tell them that most smokers go through a pack of 20 cigarettes per day- and some even more. Let them figure out how much money that would take out of their pockets on a regular basis. Get them to think about what they would rather be spending their money on.

Work with Educators

Most school districts are active in youth tobacco prevention and for this reason, you need to become aware of these efforts and understand what you can do to reinforce prevention both at home and at your teenager’s school.

If appropriate, work with other adults to form a network that is dedicated to preventing cigarette usage at school as well as keeping your children safe. Consider what kind of presence smoking has at your children's schools and what can be done to curtail it. Work with those in a position to make change happen.

The Social Smoking No-No!

Most teenagers get started with cigarettes through what is known as social smoking. This is a form of peer pressure especially if acceptance into a group involves exposure to other smokers and is considered cool and attractive.

Explain the phenomenon of social smoking to your kids and let them know that smoking, whether it be just social or not, is still harmful and addictive. There are better ways to get to know people than simply by sharing cigarettes with them.

Encourage your kids to find other ways to make friends. For example, support and encourage their participation in sports. It is the exception as opposed to the rule for athletes in organized sports to use tobacco products as it is at odds with the active and healthy lifestyle a sports program conveys.

Provide Some Information/ Photos of Lung Disease

You need to tread carefully here as you do not want to introduce too many scare tactics that can be easily dismissed by your kids as mom and dad overreacting again. But a picture can be worth a thousands words and therefore you must aim to introduce examples, not as a lecture but as a matter of fact discussion.

Look for opportunities to leave leaflets or photos of lung and heart disease caused by long-term exposure to cigarettes lying around for your kids to pick up and read. Just don’t go overboard!

Do Not Encourage Experimentation

There is a foolish and misguided sentiment out there (and endorsed by otherwise intelligent professionals) that suggests letting your teens try a cigarette under your supervision is a deterrent. The logic being that after one puff they will not ever want to try again.

Sometimes this is the case but more often than not it can encourage a greater level of experimentation. The better option is to do everything in your power to stop them from trying cigarettes. After all you don’t need to jump off a cliff to know it hurts because you know that people have done this and died as a result. So why would you push a youth down tobacco road?

Look for Signs that Usage has Occurred

Smoke odor tends to linger on clothes, and nicotine eventually discolors teeth. Smokeless tobacco products can cause bad breath and sores in the mouth. Cigarettes burn holes and usually leave a trail of discarded butts and packaging and other identifying marks.

If you suspect your teen is using a tobacco product then confront them and reinforce your “No Tobacco” position clearly. Your teen will not be able to hide all of the evidence of smoking use so keep your eyes and ears open for the signs of such.

In Conclusion

Take some time to consider your options when it comes to youth tobacco prevention in your household.

How are you doing with the methods you have chosen?

It is probably not necessary to implement all of the tips in this article so gauge what you think will work in regards to prevention for your kids and then implement the ones that are most appropriate for your kids as early as possible. In fact, for their sake, the sooner the better.


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    • glassvisage profile image

      glassvisage 7 years ago from Northern California

      This Hub is so important - I'm surprised I haven't found more like this on HubPages! Thank you for sharing all of this information.

      I was curious if you'd be interested in adding a link to this page: This page is a central place where educators can find background information about tobacco, lessons and activities for educating youth, and other resources. You can also visit my Hub:


    • profile image

      JeffP629 8 years ago

      Setting a good example to our kids seems to be a struggle for many parents these days given the behavior and state of our schools. But you're right it's not a reason for not trying.

    • Money Glitch profile image

      Money Glitch 8 years ago from Texas

      I remember attempting to smoke to be cool when I was young. Never was able to get pass the initial learning stage of smoking; too much coughing and tearing of the eyes. After that I decided it really was not that cool. Thank God, I never developed that habit. Great hub!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      As a former operating room nurse it is amazing what the lungs of smokers look like as compared to those that do not smoke. From normal healthy pink toned lungs to various shades of gray in smokers. Yuk! There are so many good arguments against starting the horrible habit of smoking. Keep up the good work!

    • Addison profile image

      Addison 8 years ago

      Nice to see this subject being discussed as a parent and information and resources being provided. Thanks Becca for hub.


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