Cigarette smoking and your child

No parent wants their child to take up smoking, especially if they are a smoker themselves. But despite all the health messages and anti-smoking commercials, young people sometimes start anyway, become addicted and then you have a smoker in the family.

If your child has started smoking, be aware that two years after taking it up, they will be totally dependent on it. The earlier you step in, the better chance you have of getting them smoke-free again. Here are some tips for helping your teen give up the nicotine:

Just be there

oost teenagers want to quit smoking but it can be one stress they don’t want to face when they have so many other things to worry about and are dealing with insecurities or peer pressure. Simply stepping up and offering to be their support person and help them get through it can be just the push they need.

The bright side

Talk to your child about the good reasons to quit smoking. They will save money, perform better at sports, reduce early ageing and, most importantly, they will be in control of their lives. Have them write a list of all the things that will be better when they stop and stick it in a place where they will see it daily.

Set a date

Help them work out a plan. Is there a date they can mark on the calendar when they would like to stop – a birthday or special date that has meaning for them? or is yourteen the kind who would be better to aim at giving up for two weeks, then a month, then two months. Whichever way you do it, it helps to work out a plan together and write it down.

Safety net

Get them to log on where they will find many tools to help them, including a quit kit, blogs from people who have given up and a text service that sends texts for 26 weeks to help them stay smoke-free.

Handling withdrawal

When they do quit, realise that it will be physically and emotionally uncomfortable for them as they withdraw. They may have headaches and stomach aches, be bad-tempered and depressed, have no energy, a dry mouth and sore throat and feel the urge to eat a lot. Reassure them that the cravings and other symptoms will disappear in just a few weeks. Also make sure you have paracetamol on hand and lots of yummy food.

Clean break

Make sure they throw away all their smoking paraphernalia, such as ashtrays and lighters, because it will only remind them of what they are missing.

Fresh start

Go through their clothes and give them a good wash and air so that the familiar smoky smell doesn’t trigger their cravings.

Breathing room

Suggest that for the first two weeks or so they avoid going to parties or spending time with other people who smoke as they will most likely be triggered to start smoking again.

Stay positive

If they have friends who aren’t supportive, then explain to your teen that the decision he or she has made is very responsible, will have long-lasting effects on their life and is therefore very wise. Don’t put down the friends who are still smoking – instead reinforce your child for their proactive decision making.

Sweet substitute

Provide your teen with tools for when they feel they need a cigarette in a social situation. Chewing gum and lollipops can be an acceptable substitute and will give them something to do with their mouth and hands.

order a quit pack

You can also access free nicotine gum, patches and lozenges to help them get through at

A personal choice

Realise that ultimately the decision to stop and the determination to stay smoke-free is your child’s. No amount of pressure will make them do it if they don’t want to. So if they fail the first time, don’t criticise or condemn them. Praise them for trying and take a “better luck next time” approach. Then they will be more likely to try again and, next time, it might work.

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