We luckily live at a point where society recognizes the dangers of smoking and how damaging it can be to your health. Thus at this point we rarely start smoking as adults as the cons will drastically outweigh the pros – the money, the lung cancer and ultimately the death.
While you and I are familiar with this basic algebra, teenagers are not always so logical in their assessment of the situation. The problem is that to many teenagers smoking is ‘cool’ and this means that it is instantly desirable regardless of the potentially very bad outcomes. If their friends all smoke, and if their favorite characters on TV smoke, then this will often make it very hard to refuse – and especially when it’s directly offered to them. Social pressure is something that we all give in to from time to time, and this is even more of a problem in teenagers for whom the social standing is such a highly important point.
It’s your job then to give your teenagers perspective and to help stop them from starting in the first place. This is highly important not only for their health and their wallet, but also as a valuable lesson in self discipline and in ‘being yourself’. Otherwise you may find that your children end up giving in to peer pressure in other scenarios too – that they end up saying yes to drugs, or saying yes to going out and vandalizing things. If you don’t give your child the ability to select their friends carefully, and to say ‘no’ when they know something is wrong, then this flaw can end up ruining their lives.
Here are some suggestions on how to prevent your teenager from smoking.
Eliminate the Glamor
One of the main reasons that many teenagers smoke is that they mistakenly believe it to be glamorous. They think that in smoking they make themselves look adult, look sexy, look elegant or look tough. However the reality as most of us know is that a smoking teenager is none of these things and in fact tends to look rough, undesirable and as though they come from a bad background. If you can demonstrate this to your teenager then you can hopefully shatter the illusion that smoking will make them look cool and get them instead to see it the way you (and most other people see it). One way to achieve this is to simply comment on kids as you drive past them who are smoking, or to comment on TV programs that you watch together. If you have a family member or a friend that they look up to, then get them to make the same comment so that it appears that you aren’t the only one who sees smoking this way. You can also make sure that they realize how ‘uncool’ smoking is by simply teasing them for it ‘ooh look at me, I’m a big boy I smoke!’. When they realize how absurd they are being they will hopefully realize that there’s nothing cool about sucking in smoke.
If your teenager wants to smoke then they are going to need to spend a lot of money doing so, so one way to prevent them from this behavior is to limit how much money they have available to spend on smoking. This way they won’t be able to afford the activity and they will hopefully stop or at least reduce it. You can apply this financial pressure in several ways – by reducing pocket money that you give them for instance, or by increasing any rent that you charge them. And if you know that they are smoking you can simply tell them that you would reduce the rent/increase allowance when they stop.
Lead by Example
If you already smoke then this is going to make your children statistically far more likely to smoke. At the same time they won’t take anything you say or do to stop them seriously as it will just seem like hypocrisy. So if you don’t want them to smoke then you should stop – and this is something you should definitely do anyway if you have children.
Explain Peer Pressure
The reason your children smoke is peer pressure and this is what makes it hard for them to stop. They might know what peer pressure is, but chances are that they aren’t truly familiar with just how ‘uncool’ being pressured into doing something is. So talk to them about the nature of independence and confidence and point out that if you are willing to change who you are to make someone else think you’re cool that you are in fact just weak and needy. People don’t win respect by trying to make other people happy all the time, and the truly ‘cool’ children are the ones that do what they think is cool and don’t listen to others. Ask your teenager if they want to be themselves or a carbon copy of the other children trying desperately to be adults, and ask them whether they really think it’s cool to obey the rest of their group without question.
Give Them Multiple Friendship Groups
Even if your child understands all this, then the thought of losing their friends over smoking might be too much. While you know that their friends wouldn’t leave them for this reason, it can still make it hard to give up. One thing you can do is to provide them with some other friends and some other activities and groups so that they don’t ‘need’ their first group quiet as much. You can achieve this by sending them to a club or by getting them to socialize with your friends’ children etc, and that way they’ll have some more positive influences their own age too.
Get Them Interested in Sports
If your child is really interested in sports or fitness then point out that they need to stop smoking in order to get into shape. Lots of young boys will want to be muscular and have good physiques and will see this as a good way to be popular and get girls – this is a far better activity than smoking and the two do not go hand in hand. This way you also give them a good reason to give their peers when they turn down cigarettes.
You can also educate your children on the dangers of smoking and while your school will probably do this too you can use your knowledge of your teenagers in order to really make points that will hit close to home. If your child is scared of cancer or knows someone who has died of cancer then explain how they are risking that disease by smoking. Likewise if you know they take their appearance very seriously then you can really emphasize how much it can damage your teeth and skin.