Different ways to react to teens who smoke

The obvious reaction from a parent who has found their teen smoking might be a mixture of feeling anger, fear or perhaps concern.

It is probably best for all involved to not react on the scene and always take some time out from the situation to reflect. The worst possible reaction is a knee jerk one where a parent gets angry and rants and says things that they later regret. It is always best to find a time when you are calmer and can have a conversation with your teen.

When you talk to your teen, it might be useful to write down the things that you are going to want to talk about. If you do this it will keep your conversation more structured and you are less likely to digress from the subject. Also, remember that you are the adult in the conversation and you should take the adult voice, not the child or the teacher approach. Remember not to lecture your child about smoking as this is not going to have any effect and might cause further rebellion.

Hopefully, you are not a parent who is a smoker and there are no others within the home who smoke, such as an older sibling. Parents are unfair and hypocritical to not want their child to smoke when they are setting the wrong example themselves. A teen is more likely to want to smoke if their parent or older sibling does.

If you are a non-smoking parent, then it is important that you do not condone your teen smoking in any way. A teen will not like your disapproval. Make it clear that you are feeling let down and upset that you saw them smoking and that whilst you cannot physically stop them, there will be rules applied. For example, sanctions related to smoking should be set, such as banning smoking in or near the family home. If you give your teen a weekly allowance of money, then it is important to monitor that this money is not being spent on tobacco products. You could ask your teen for receipts for things that they buy.

Ideally, a parent would like their teen to not smoke and this may or may not happen. Teenage smoking can often be just something that they try; however, it shouldn’t be ignored because teens are heavily influenced by their friends and peers to continue to smoke. Unfortunately, starting to smoke can also mean that they might be hanging about with undesirable friends that could lead them further into drug taking.

Remember, if your teen has only just begun to smoke, then it will be easier at this point for them to stop. If they are hardly smoking, then addiction to nicotine will not have set in yet. Where teens are experimenting, this can be a time of worry for parents. Hopefully, they will not want to continue to smoke, but if they do, then this can lead to dependency on nicotine and the continuation of more long term smoking. Try the approach that you feel disappointed in their behaviour. Perhaps offering a reward for your teen to encourage them to stop smoking could work, depending on how much they want the reward.

You could discuss with your teen the damage that the chemical contents of cigarettes causes and how it can cause damage to body organs. Informing your teen that smoking will affect their looks could have a good chance of working because teens are very body- and face-conscious. You could also try discussing how tobacco and nicotine deposits in cigarettes are going to cause their clothes, hair and breath to smell in an undesirable way. If your teen cares about body image, then this might be an alternative approach to try.