Information on Teens & Smoking
Young people start smoking for many reasons – to act older, to be independent, to fit in, to relieve stress, to rebel against adults, and (sometimes) to be like their parents.
Help prevent this from happening by opening the conversation with your teen regarding the dangers of smoking, the differences between various smoking media – such as cigarettes, cigars, etc. – and the inherent harm involved with using each one, how to avoid smoking all together, and how to quit (if your teen or someone they know becomes addicted).
Below are some informational tips for you and your teen that may help support you in this conversation
- Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
- Nicotine is an addictive drug found in cigarettes.
- Approximately 80 percent of adult smokers started smoking before the age of 18.
- Most teens can buy cigarettes even though it is illegal to sell them to minors in all 50 states.
- Spit tobacco (chew) is not a safe alternative to smoking. Regular use of spit tobacco can cause cancer of the cheek, gums, tongue, and throat.
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Tips for Parents
- Show concern. Don't wait for your teen to smoke before you talk about tobacco use. Many kids begin trying cigarettes at 11 or 12 years of age.
- Establish rules. Talk about family expectations and rules about smoking. Clearly state and enforce the consequences for breaking the rules.
- Know the facts. Talk with your teen about the dangers of smoking. Teens often don't relate to the future health problems caused by smoking, such as lung cancer and heart disease. Try talking about the dangers of smoking in a way that hits home with your teen. Use a relative or close friend who is sick with or died of a smoking-related illness as an example.
- Let your teen know that smoking stains teeth and causes bad breath, yellow fingers, smelly hair and clothing, and premature wrinkles. Smokers also have less athletic endurance.
- Challenge the ads. Talk about the ways that tobacco companies try to get young people to buy their products. Tobacco ads that create images of glamour, fitness, fun, and success mislead some teens to think that they can improve their self-image by smoking.
- Get to know your teen's friends. Know where they hang out and what they are doing.
- Be honest. Do you smoke or are you an ex-smoker? You can still express concern over your teen starting the habit. Talk about how hard it is to quit. Share your experiences.
- If you smoke, try to quit. If you smoke, your teen is more likely to become a smoker. Also, research shows that secondhand smoke (smoke that comes from the end of a cigarette or that is exhaled) is dangerous to nonsmokers because it increases their risk of lung cancer. Ask your doctor or other health care provider to help you quit smoking or call the national agencies (Listed in the Sources Section at the Right of the page) for more information.
- Support community efforts to work against tobacco ads that target young people and to enforce laws that prevent the sale of tobacco to minors. For information on anti-tobacco efforts in your community, contact the agencies listed in the Sources section (found at the Right of the page.
Used by permission.
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Reviewed By: Adolescent Interest Group
Last Reviewed: August 2013
Below are links PAMF accessed when researching this topic. PAMF does not sponsor or endorse any of these sites, nor does PAMF guarantee the accuracy of the information contained on them.
Tobacco Control. American Dental Association.
Protecting your Lungs. American Lung Association.
Smoking & Tobacco Use. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Join Together Online.
National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information.
Hotlines and Help Lines from Palo Alto Medical Foundation.
Additionally, you may wish to consult these sources for more information regarding smoking or tobacco use and abuse:
- Your teen's health care provider.
- Your teen's school counselor.
- Your local hospital or public health department.