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Teens who smoke become adults who smoke. 90 percent of adults who are regular smokers began smoking before the age of 18.
Most teens don’t fully understand the risks associated with smoking or how difficult it will be to quit. The average person who started smoking as a teen will smoke for 16 to 20 years before being able to successfully quit.
If you discover that your teen is smoking, it is important to talk openly and calmly about it. Anger and threats won’t convince anyone to quit—especially a teenager.
Instead, it is better to remain calm and ask questions. Find out how your child started smoking and why they continue to do it. You will be better prepared to tackle the problem when you understand why your teenager picked up a cigarette in the first place—often, the reason will be that their friends are doing it, that they think it looks cool, or because of simple curiosity. In other cases, it can be because of stress at school or home.
After you find out what’s driving your teen to smoke, talk to him or her about how the negative consequences outweigh any and all short-term "benefits."
You can throw out statistics about cancer and lung disease all day, but those concerns are not foremost in your teen’s mind. What they likely find more important are their looks, their friends, being cool, and dating.
It can therefore be helpful to explain how the smell of smoke clings to hair and clothes, causing the smoker to smell bad, which is not conducive to a successful social life.
Nicotine and cigarette smoke also cause bad breath and yellow teeth, which aren’t attractive or cool to anyone. Smoking may also cause fatigue, so while friends are watching a movie or enjoying a game, your teenager may be too exhausted to leave the house.
Make a plan, and be a central part of it. Help your teenager anticipate situations in which he or she may be pressured to light up again, and help them script a response so your child can turn down the cigarette without getting nervous.
If you feel like more help is needed, set up an appointment with a doctor or quitting coach. Then celebrate as your teen reaches each milestone on the path to being smoke-free.
Written by: the Healthline Editorial Team
Medically reviewed on: Jul 23, 2014: George Krucik, MD, MBA
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