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When your teen starts smoking or vaping

What if your teenager comes home, and he smells like tobacco, or you see an e-cigarette peeking out of your daughter’s purse? How should you react as a parent?

“Calm communication is one of the keys to addressing the problem successfully,” SEARHC Tobacco Health Educator Amanda Roberts said. “Ask why they are smoking or vaping and what are they feeling. Once you understand why they are using tobacco, you can educate them and provide alternatives.”

Why teens smoke

Young people start smoking or vaping for a variety of reasons; peer pressure, the belief that it relieves stress or looks cool, to lose or control weight, easy access, and role models or family members who use tobacco. Nearly all adult smokers started before they were 18 years old, so now is the time to help your child quit. Be supportive, but let your child know that both cigarettes and e-cigarettes are dangerous (cancer, lung problems, heart disease, etc.) and you will help them quit.

Once your child has agreed to stop, you will need a plan. Writing down all the reasons to stop can help reinforce behavior change. When providing reasons to quit be sure to include the cost. At nearly $10 each, a pack-a-day smoker will spend nearly $4,000 a year on cigarettes. In twenty years that will have added up to over $70,000! Compare that to the cost of other things they find essential, like electronic devices, clothes, video games, etc. Perhaps pointing out that saving that money could mean the ability to buy a car when they’re old enough to drive or money for college.

Cost of smoking

You can also appeal to a youth’s vanity. Smoking smells bad, gives you bad breath, creates wrinkles, and turns teeth yellow. It also makes it more difficult to keep up with sports or other activities that require energy or lung capacity. You know your teen best and what may get through to him or her.

Understand that nicotine is very addictive, and even adults have a hard time stopping. Many make several attempts before they are smoke-free. So be patient, and help your child keep trying if he or she is not successful at first. And, of course, be sure to set a good example by not smoking, using e-cigarettes or vaping.

You can also seek support from your teen’s medical provider or contact Alaska’s Tobacco Quit Line toll-free at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visit alaskaquitline.com.


Tammi Meissner, SEARHC Health Educator, reviewed the information presented here.


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The SEARHC Crisis Help Line, 1.877.294.0074, is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to residents of Southeast Alaska.