According to the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide, one in four American teens are at least occasional smokers. Of teens who smoke regularly, about 75 percent will continue smoking into adulthood. NBCNews.com reports that most antismoking programs have been largely unsuccessful in preventing teen smoking. However, there are still steps that you can take as a parent to prevent your child from smoking.
Set an Example
Better Health Channel, a website funded by the State Government of Victoria (Australia), points out that research shows children are less likely to start smoking if their role models are not smokers. Whether you like to admit it or not, you are your child's biggest role model. If you are a smoker, now may be a good time to quit. Talk to your doctor about programs or medications that might help. If you're having a hard time quitting, be sure that your teen knows how much you don't like smoking and how hard you are trying to quit, and tell him how bad it feels to be addicted to nicotine.
Communication is Key
You may think it's common knowledge that you don't want your teen smoking, but it's still important that you tell him. According to MayoClinic.com, teens who are closer to their parents and whose parents set firm smoking restrictions are less likely to pick up the habit. Don't allow smoking in your home, and encourage your teen to make friends with nonsmokers. Talk to your teens about the dangers of smoking -- not only the health risks but also the negative effects that smoking has on your breath, hair and nails. Sit your teen down and go over how much money smoking costs over a year, and things that he could potentially spend that money on besides cigarettes.
Get involved in your teen's tobacco education. A 2006 study by the University Pittsburgh found that teens who earn higher grades in school and are media-savvy regarding smoking and cigarette advertising and messages are more likely to remain smoke-free. Talk to your teen about how to analyze the messages she sees in ads, movies and on television. Let her know that the only people who benefit from smoking are tobacco companies and that all these companies care about is money. Spread the message that smart teens -- and adults -- don't smoke.
If Your Teen Is Smoking
If you suspect or discover that your teen is smoking, it's important to avoid an angry confrontation. Instead of yelling or threatening your teen, sit her down for talk. Ask her why she started smoking and listen to her response. If peer pressure was involved, resist the urge to forbid your teen from seeing the people you think are a negative influence. Instead, talk to her about the value of being her own person and making her own decisions. Set firm restrictions about smoking in your home and urge your teen to quit. If your teen is already addicted and struggling to quit, seek help from a medical professional.