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What role can parents play in preventing teens from smoking?

J.Lucy Boyd
Epidemiology

Parents can begin by setting a good example themselves. Children of all ages do watch their parent's behavior more than they listen to their words. Tell teens about the dangers of smoking, including lung cancer and emphysema. Allow them to see people who can't catch their breath, or who are on oxygen due to smoking-related illness.

Explain that smoking is an addiction, and that once you begin, you may have great difficulty stopping. Don't make smokers out to be bad people. Treat smoking as a horrible choice, not a character issue.

Help develop your child's self-confidence so that he doesn't feel he needs to fit in with his peers, or smoke to appear "cool." A teen who feels good about himself is better able to say "no" when pressured. Develop his confidence by praising him about what he is good at and giving him opportunities to develop his strengths.

Some teens smoke to relieve pressure. If your teen seems to be under stress, look for ways to help him relax. Make sure his schedule isn't too heavy. Encourage him to discuss his problems with you by listening more than talking, and remaining nonjudgmental. Give him periods of time to "just be a kid" without overwhelming responsibilities, such as taking the family hiking or to a waterslide park.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.