Prevention is always ideal, but sometimes the next best thing is cessation.
If you discover that your teen is smoking and is now addicted to tobacco, it can be devastating. But, it doesn’t mean too much damage has been done. According to the Mayo Clinic, stopping teen smoking in its tracks is the best way to promote a lifetime of good health.
The following steps you can take come from the Mayo Clinic’s Tween and Teen Health sector.
1.) You want to start by setting an example. Teens are quick to call us out as parents and it’s important we don’t give them a bad example as parents have a powerful influence in their lives. If you smoke, your teen might interpret your actions as an endorsement for the behavior. As your doctor about stop-smoking products and resources to help you stop smoking, and in the meantime, avoid smoking in front of your child.
2.) Open up the dialogue. Share your thoughts and feelings with your teen regarding how much you want him or her to stop smoking. However, it’s important to remember that commands, threats, and ultimatums are likely to backfire. Instead of getting angry, ask your child what made him or her decide to start smoking. It could be that your child is just trying to fit in or feel more grown-up. Once you have a better idea of ‘the why’ you’ll be more equipped to address the solution.
3.) Encourage your teen to share his or her concerns. Instead of doing all the talking, but sure to do a lot of listening too. Rather than lecturing your teen on the dangers of smoking, open up the conversation, and ask them what they consider as the negative aspects of smoking, for example. Offer your own list and appeal to your teen’s vanity. For example, explain that smoking:
- Gives you bad breath
- Makes your clothes and hair smell
- Turns your teeth and fingers yellow
- Harms lung function and athletic performance.
5.) Now it’s time to make a plan. Many teens believe that they can stop smoking anytime, but research suggests that this isn’t usually true. Teens can become addicted after smoking as few as five packs of cigarettes, according to the Mayo Clinic. When you start to formulate a plan, ask your teen if his or her friends have tried to stop smoking. Ask your child to consider why they were – or weren’t – successful. Talk about which stop-smoking strategies your teen thinks might work best and offer your own suggestions as well:
- Know your reason. Ask your teen to think about why he or she wants to stop smoking. This list can help your teen stay motivated as temptation arises.
- Set a quit date. Help your teen choose a date to stop smoking.
- Avoid temptation. Encourage your child to avoid people, places, and activities that he or she links with smoking.
- Help your child be prepared for cravings. Remind your child that if he or she can hold out long enough – usually just a few minutes – the nicotine craving will pass. Encourage your teen to take a few deep breathes or go for a walk. Offer sugarless gum, hard candy, celery, or carrot sticks to help distract them.
- Consider stop-smoking products. Although nicotine replacement products – such as nicotine gums, patches, inhalers, or nasal sprays – weren’t designed for teens, the Mayo Clinic suggests they may be helpful in some cases. Talk to your teen’s doctor about the options.
- Seek support. A tobacco-cessation specialist can also offer your teen the tools and support he or she needs to stop smoking. Some organizations even offer stop-smoking groups specifically for teens.
And it’s important to remain supportive, even if your teen slips. Continue to reinforce and congratulate your teen on the progress he or she has made and encourage them not to give up. If they slip, talk to them about what went wrong and how they can continue to love forward.
Above all, the Mayo Clinic recommends celebrating your teen’s success. This may be a favorite meal for a smoke-free day or a new shirt for a smoke-free week or a party with nonsmoking friends for a smoke-free month.
For more information related to the effects of tobacco on our youth and local resources in Tuscarawas County, be sure to visit adctusc.org.