A person throwing a pack of cigarettes into a garbage can.
Setting a good example, making a plan, and having open, respectful conversations will help teenagers learn how to quite smoking cigarettes.

How to Quit Smoking Cigarettes

Most adults pick up their best and worst habits in their teen years and during early adulthood because that age offers the opportunity to figure out their likes and dislikes. It’s a time to explore options, have adventures, and try new things, which has its pros and cons.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 90% of adult smokers began smoking before they were 18 years old. Only 2% of adults start their smoking habit after early adulthood. In this article, we will talk about how to quit smoking cigarettes, and focus specifically on strategies for teenagers.

Teen Smoking

Much of the focus today highlights teen drinking habits, but smoking, and in particular, vaping, has seen an increase in the last five years. While teen drinking sees a decline, teen smoking is rising. This rise in smoking in the adolescent population is worrisome, because quitting smoking is tougher for people who begin the habit before the age of 21.

According to the 2020 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), 24% of high school students and 7% of middle school students currently smoke tobacco products. Most concerning are the 3.58 million teens using e-cigarette products (vaping). Flavored vaping products attract teens who don’t see the e-cigarettes in the same vein as traditional tobacco products.

The truth is, however, that most vaping products contain nicotine and other toxins, making them hazardous.

Warning Signs of Teen Smoking

Quitting smoking is much easier for a new smoker than one who has been smoking for decades, so it’s vital to spot teen smoking early. In order to help a teenager quit smoking, caregivers need to be on the lookout for any signs of a smoking habit.

The following are signs to be on the lookout for:

  • Yellow teeth
  • The scent of smoke on clothing or belongings
  • Chewing gum or using mouthwash often to mask their breath
  • Leaving frequently to get “fresh air” or have time to themselves
  • A decrease in appetite
  • Burn or yellow marks on their nails

Smoking and Teen Health

The long-term health consequences of smoking are well known. Heart disease, hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung cancer, to name a few, are all health conditions caused by smoking. For teens, however, smoking is even more detrimental.

Because a teen’s brain and body are still growing, the chemicals from smoking can impact development. For example, nicotine changes a teen’s brain, leading to permanent changes in their brain chemistry. The consequences of smoking can result in mental health disorders like attention deficits, anxiety, and insomnia.

Smoking Cessation Methods for Teens

Most teens who smoke want to quit; they just don’t know how. A study done by the Canadian Cancer Society found that 70% of teens who smoke try repeatedly to quit on their own, but are unsuccessful. Sometimes, all it takes is a little help from the people around them. The following are a few tips to help your teen with their smoking habit.

Make a Plan

Planning to quit smoking is the first step. And to make a plan, an open, trusting conversation about smoking needs to happen.

Teens need a caregiver who is willing to help, without scolding and free of judgement. To make a smoking cessation plan, teens can create a list of ways to handle cravings and keep from smoking. Establish a date to begin quitting and provide support.

Set a Good Example

Despite what they may say, teens value their caregivers’ opinions. They pay more attention to the actions of the adults than they care to admit.

Adolescents become confused when adults tell them not to do something because it’s bad for their health, and then they see adults do the very thing they were told not to do. Caregivers can set a positive example by not smoking or joining in the fight to quit.

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Establish a Smoke-Free Atmosphere

Due to their developmental stage, teens have less impulse control than adults do. Therefore, having a smoke-free environment is key to quitting.

Make the home a smoke-free environment, even for guests. Reinforcing a smoke-free home for friends and family shows adolescents that their efforts to quit smoking are respected.

Find Assistance

For many teens, quitting smoking may take multiple tries. If quitting becomes exceptionally difficult, it’s a good idea to seek assistance from community resources. A visit to the doctor or therapist can help a teen quit smoking through counseling or medications.

Technology is something teens are especially comfortable using, and it can also help adolescent smokers quit.

Here are a few examples of how technology can be used for smoking cessation:

SmokeFree Teen
The National Institutes of Health offers the SmokeFree Teen initiative to help adolescents stop smoking. On the SmokeFree Teen website, teens can develop a plan to quit smoking, get assistance through texts, and find inspiration on Instagram.

The free quitSTART app, which works on both Apple and Android phones, is filled with tailored tips, challenges, and social support resources. Teens can even earn badges and share their progress on social media.

Not On Tobacco (NOT)
Run by the American Lung Association, the Not On Tobacco smoking cessation program for teens is a 10-week course filled with an age-appropriate approach. Open to teens 14-19 years-old, the program gears its content specifically to adolescents.

This Is Quitting
This Is Quitting is a free and anonymous texting app made for teens and young adults ages 13-24. Content and groups are tailored by age and mainly for teens trying to quit vaping.

Finally: Don’t Start

The good news about smoking? If a teen can make it out of adolescence without becoming addicted to smoking, they will probably never start smoking. The CDC found that 95% of teens who never smoke by 18 will never start.

Keep teens away from smoking and they will more than likely enjoy a smoke-free life.