Could your teenager be smoking?

Smoking kills but the chances are that isn’t going to stop your teenager from trying it. Cancer Research UK has revealed that 157,000 11 – 15 year olds start smoking every year and 27% of kids in the UK have tried smoking at some time. Here’s what to do if you catch your kids or teens lighting up.

Stay calm

No matter how justifiable your anger, a blazing row isn’t likely to work. In fact, it could make a particularly stroppy teenager even more determined to continue smoking. Let them know how you feel, but don’t lecture and don’t bawl them out. And try to keep it in perspective.

Work out why

If you’re going to persuade your child to quit, you need to know why they started in the first place. Here’s a few of the main reasons:

* Vanity – Many girls start smoking because they’re worried about their weight. A recent survey revealed that teenage girls who start dieting are twice as likely to also start smoking regularly. Appeal to her vanity. Smoking may encourage her to skip meals but she’ll only end up bingeing at the next one. If she eats a healthy, balanced diet there’s no need to skip meals anyway. And it certainly won’t make her look any better. It will make her teeth go yellow and give her premature wrinkles. Her skin will look grey and dull, she’ll get cellulite from all the toxins and to put it bluntly, she’ll stink.

* Money – At around £7 for a pack of 20, smoking is expensive. Even 10 cigarettes a day will cost her £1,800 a year. Point out how much she could save, or spend on clothes and make-up, rather than watching her money literally go up in smoke. Tell her what a con it is, give her information about the tobacco industry and the money it’s making from addicts. Teenagers don’t like feeling conned.

* Peer pressure – This is a tricky one. No matter how much you tell them otherwise, many teenagers still believe their friends more than they believe you. They are also convinced they will look more grown up, cool and sophisticated if they stick a cigarette in their mouth. Although they probably won’t admit it, many still use a cigarette as a prop to hang onto when they’re feeling insecure and vulnerable. If this is the main reason she smokes, you could find it very difficult to persuade her she’s wrong. Time, maturity and self confidence should eventually make her see the error of her ways, but until then all you can do is give her a few rules which make it more difficult for her to continue smoke. For example, tell her she can’t smoke at home and if you find cigarettes lying around you’ll bin them.

And if you smoke yourself, stop!

– Next: More advice and support on stopping your teen smoking

More help and advice

How to stop smoking video
A guide to teens and drugs
Ten benefits of stopping smoking
Advice on how to talk to your teens