Perhaps at first you can’t quite believe it. You catch the unmistakable whiff off your teenager and convince yourself that you are wrong. But then you smell it again – they are definitely smoking.
It’s almost inconceivable that someone would start smoking – given the huge body of evidence about the harm smoking does, given the amount it costs and given the evident difficulty people have in quitting.
However, teenagers are a law unto themselves and – in spite of everything – many of them still start lighting up each year. And I have some sympathy, many years ago I was a teenager who started smoking because it seemed like a good idea. More than 20 years and dozens of attempts to quit later I was to curse that idea.
If it appears that your teenager has decided that smoking is a good idea too, what can you do to nip the notion in the bud? Here are a few suggestions:
- Stubb it out: If you smoke yourself, lead by example and stop.
- Go to the GP: They won’t be shocked and will be able to offer advice and access to therapies and support.
- Be prepared: Quitting isn’t easy so get ready for a difficult few days. Discuss how it might feel with your teenager.
- Start talking: Of course you could just tell your teenager to stop smoking, but that’s not likely to work. Instead open dialogue, be curious and supportive. Try to find out why they smoke and with that knowledge work out how to stop.
- Scare tactics: Possibly your child has chosen not to listen to the dire warnings about nicotine and health. Calmly explain the effect that smoking has, perhaps you know someone who died of a smoking-related condition.
- Get strategic: Help your child to develop ways to give up and stay given up. This could include practicing saying no, taking up exercise or finding friends who don’t smoke to hang out with.
- Keep calm: It’s important that your son or daughter feels they can talk to you without you flying off the handle.
- Make it hard for them: You could try insisting that they don’t smoke in your house, or near it, and that they wash their own clothes, however, this is a risky strategy as it might make them rebel and drive them further from you.
- See it from their point of view: Teenagers reckon they’re immortal so there may be little point in saying that cigarettes can kill. Instead, try talking about how it could affect their looks, how attractive they smell and their performance on the sports field.
- Get commitment: When they’re ready to give up get them to write it down including the reasons why they want to stop and the benefits they’ll gain. It’ll make it easier.
- Cry freedom. While smoking might seem like the ultimate expression of choice, it’s the opposite. Cigarette manufacturers are using all manner of techniques to get you hooked, after which they have you in their power.