How to talk to your children about tobacco?

Smoking can be a meaningful vice for some people, but if we can help prevent the future generation from going down the same path as us, we should! Despite our purchases of smoking papers and lighters, we need to be careful about glorifying smoking or encouraging the behaviour – regardless of whether we smoke or not. Here are a few ways to go about this.

Discussing tobacco from an early age

It is a good idea to warn your children about the dangers of smoking when they are 5 or 6 years old. It’s important to be open and honest, and ask for their thoughts too. Make this a two-way conversation, especially when they’re into their teenage years. You don’t have to make this a taboo subject, which can often drive children to rebel. Instead, demystify it by talking openly about it.

There are studies showing that kids who aren’t as close to their parents are more likely to start smoking. So, staying connected with your children is also going to help prevent them from turning to cigarettes.

Being clear on the health risks

Of course, smoking is an unhealthy habit and we should communicate this clearly. It isn’t helpful to go over the top and suggest it’s an instant death sentence – they can see around them people smoke and are very much alive and well.

Furthermore, whilst it’s important to explain the long-term damage, such as it causing lung cancer, children aren’t very good at caring about their future self. So, explain the short-term risks too!

A prominent short-term risk is that children who start smoking from an early age are more likely to become short of breath and develop asthma. This is bad news for children who likes sports in particular, which may dissuade them from smoking.

Of course, explaining how expensive it is, the addiction qualities, and other health risks is also effective

Preventing future smokers

We can cement certain mantras into the minds of children; phrases that we repeat often. For example, “I don’t want to smell like an ashtray” or “I don’t want to be out of breath when playing football”. These are phrases that can be re-said word for word and the children may also start repeating them, particularly to their friends who are smoking.

It’s easier to digest and more effective than just listing off the health risks that they will be exposed to 40 years down the line.

Furthermore, it’s vitally important to let your children know that smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes are alternatives to smoking for current smokers. For someone with a lengthy smoking addiction can benefit from these, but not teenagers. In fact, these act as a gateway into smoking addiction, as many will still contain nicotine, or just facilitates an artificial version of the habit. 

It’s important to negatively associate these products as if they were cigarettes (though, that isn’t to say lie about their dangers).

In conclusion, we must have a two-way conversation with children when it comes to smoking. We must listen and reason with them, but also be consistent in our message.

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