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Eight Tips for Talking with Youth about Tobacco

August 20, 2012

Parenting is one of the most gratifying jobs out there. But it is also one of the toughest, especially when it comes to having discussions about important issues like tobacco use.

Father and son looking at each other and smilingConsider this: Each day in the United States, more than 3,800 youth under age 18 smoke their first cigarette and more than 1,000 youth under age 18 become daily cigarette smokers.1 Young people are sensitive to nicotine. The younger they are when they begin using tobacco, the more likely they are to become addicted to nicotine, and the more heavily addicted they will become.2

As a parent, you play an important and influential role in the effort to prevent youth from using tobacco. Some studies suggest peers, family, and parental influences are risk factors for youth smoking initiation.3

So make time to talk to your kids about the threat of using tobacco today. With your guidance, maybe they won't start. The following tips can help you get the conversation started.

 

  1. Share the Facts.
    Knowledge is power – give youth the facts about tobacco so that they can make good choices.View our infographic on the facts about teens and tobacco.
  2. Talk Early and Often.
    Tobacco use can start as early as middle school—today, more than 600,000 middle school students smoke cigarettes4—so it’s never too early to begin the conversation about tobacco’s dangers. Make your child understand that you want them to stay safe and expect them to avoid using tobacco.
  3. Use Everyday Opportunities to Talk and Listen.
    There are plenty of other opportunities every day to bring up the topic of tobacco use and its risks. The next time you see someone smoking in public, take a moment to discuss how it harms the body. Tell them, “Tobacco is highly addictive and toxic to your body.  It can harm your lungs, heart and other body parts.”
  4. Be Honest, Direct, and Open.
    Create an environment where both you and your children can talk openly about tobacco use. If friends or relatives have died from tobacco-related illnesses, explain to your kids how tobacco caused their death. Make sure they fully understand the risks of tobacco use. One way to help them learn is through play, like in this cause-and-effect activity showing the potential risks of cigarette smoking.
  5. Make it a Two-Way Conversation.
    Talk with, not at, your child. Listen carefully and actively to what your child says and encourage them to ask questions and share their feelings and concerns. 
  6. Set a Good Example.
    Children of parents who smoke are more likely to smoke in the future.5 If you smoke, don’t use tobacco in your children’s presence and don't leave it where they can easily get it. Please consider trying to quit smoking today.
  7. Set Clear Rules.
    Children should be given clear and consistent rules on not using tobacco as they grow up. Learn more about setting rules from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  8. Help Your Child Learn to Say "No."
    Adolescents and young adults are uniquely vulnerable to social and environmental influences to use tobacco.6 As a parent, you can help your children learn to overcome these influences. Help them create a plan for how to say "no."

 

Now you have our best tips for starting the conversation about tobacco with your child. Share your own tips with us and other parents.

 

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Additional Resources

 

References

1 - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings, NSDUH Series H-41, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 11-4658. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2011.

2 - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking. Page 7. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office on Smoking and Health, 2004.

3 - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Preventing Tobacco Use Among Young People: A Report of the Surgeon General [PDF], Page 110. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office on Smoking and Health, 2012

4 - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: Fact Sheet Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office of Smoking and Health, 2012

5 - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Preventing Tobacco Use Among Young People: A Report of the Surgeon General [PDF], Page 97. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office on Smoking and Health, 2012

6 - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Preventing Tobacco Use Among Young People: A Report of the Surgeon General [PDF], Page 460. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office on Smoking and Health, 2012