Even though teens may not be motivated by what may or may not happen to them in 30 years, it is still useful to talk about the health issues smoking cigarettes can cause. Keep in mind that the more graphic your argument, the more emotionally powerful it will become.
A few of the risks include:
- Heart disease
- Gum disease
- Throat disease
- Lung cancer
- Shortness of breath
- Chronic coughing
In addition to the health risks, you can also address the many “yuck” factors of smoking. By turning “smoking is cool” into “smoking is yucky”, you will help build your child’s resistance to trying cigarettes.
- Smoking causes bad breath, yellow teeth, and increases the risk of gum disease and tooth loss
- Smoking makes your hair, clothes, car and house stink
- Smoking dulls your taste buds and sense of smell
- Smoking causes chronic coughing, increased phlegm and wheezing
- Smoking can wreck your health and your looks
If you have a friend or relative who is suffering from a tobacco-related illness, see if they will talk with your child about smoking and how it has negatively impacted their lives. Chances are the patient will appreciate the opportunity to use their mistake to help someone else avoid what they are going through.
Answering Tough Questions
Your job as a parent is to ask tough questions. But don’t be surprised when your children ask them of you too.
Q: If smoking is so bad for you, why do you smoke?
This is a tough question because it speaks directly to your credibility.
A 1: You’re right. I’ll make a deal with you. If I promise to quit, you promise to never start.
A 2: The sneaky thing about smoking is this: When you start, you think you can quit at anytime. But I can tell you that it’s a hard habit to give up. It’s easier to never start. I wish I never would have.
Q: Why are you making such a big deal about this? It’s not like I’m doing drugs.
A: Tobacco can be just as lethal as anything out there. I’m making a big deal out of this because I love you and don’t want you to be one of the 4 million teens who will eventually die from tobacco-related illnesses.
Exercises/Role-playing Advice For Parents
The more your child knows about tobacco, the less likely they are to consider ever trying their first cigarette. Take the time to encourage them to research the negative effects of smoking and to write and deliver a report on the subject.
Use stories and metaphors to create an “a-ha” moment that your child will never forget. Role-play with your child so they get used to saying no to smoking. Use various scenarios that encourage your child to find creative ways to not give in to peer pressure.
Role play situation #1:
Parent: Let’s pretend that I’m one of your friends and we’ve been doing something together outside and have just taken a break. As we sit down, I pull out a pack of cigarettes and light one up. I take a puff and then say to you, “Here, try some of this.” What do you say?
Parent: Aw, it’s only a cigarette. It’s not like heroin or something.
Parent: Suit yourself, but I think you’re making a big deal out of nothing.
Role play situation #2:
Parent: Let’s pretend that you are with a new group of kids who you think are really cool. You are all sitting around by yourselves when they take out cigarettes and start lighting up. One of them says, “Don’t you smoke?” What do you say?
Parent: Sorry, I didn’t’ know you were a goody goody. I wouldn’t want you to get in trouble with your mama. [Said tauntingly.]