Talking Tobacco with Your Kids

IL talking tobacco with kids

If you're worried about keeping your kids away from cigarettes, take a deep breath. You have more influence than you think.

A Dartmouth Medical School study revealed that parents' views on smoking carried far more weight with kids than those of their peers. Remarkably, even parents who smoked could protect their kids from taking up the habit by showing strong disapproval of cigarette use, researchers found.

Still, kids tend to believe they're invincible. How can you help your children understand why they shouldn't smoke? Here are some suggestions from the American Cancer Society.

Aim to open a long-term dialogue with your kids rather than giving one big lecture. Begin talking with them when they are 5 or 6 years old and continue the conversation through high school.

Tell kids openly that you disapprove of smoking because it will harm their health. Dartmouth researchers found that kids whose parents took a firm stand were less than half as likely to become established smokers.

Listen even as you set limits. Taking time to answer your kids' questions shows you respect their learning process. They'll be more receptive to your message if you show you'll respond to their concerns, too.

Remind them that smoking stinks!  Cigarettes give you bad breath, stain your teeth and make your clothes smell awful. These facts may carry just as much weight with appearance-conscious kids as information about the long-term health risks. Presenting both empowers them to make an informed choice.

What if your child has already started smoking?  Avoid threats and ultimatums. Focus on providing loving guidance to help your son or daughter quit for good. The American Cancer Society offers information and quit strategies that really work.

To learn more about kids and tobacco use, visit cancer.org.