A group of teens smoking and holding a pack of cigarettes.
Out of the adults who smoke, 9 out of 10 of them began before the age of 18.

How to Stop Teen Smoking

For a teen, the ability to try something new might draw them to try highly addictive tobacco products. Therefore, it’s no wonder that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that 9 out of 10 adult smokers started smoking before the age of 18. Less than 2% of adult smokers started smoking after the age of 28. Those who begin smoking before the age of 21 have the most difficult time quitting and about 95% of teens who do not start smoking by the age of 18 never begin. These numbers show that the best way to quit smoking is never to start. This is why we are going to take a look at teen smoking, from the affects it has to how to quit.

The Good News and Bad News About Teen Tobacco Trends

There is both good and bad news when it comes to current teen smoking trends. In a 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, only 2.7% of children aged 12 to 17 smoked a cigarette in the past 30 days. That low number is at the end of a percentage that has been steadily sliding downwards for the last decade. That’s good news.

The bad news is that teen vaping (the use of e-cigarettes) has increased. Though the regulated contents sold for e-cigarettes do contain nicotine, the other concern may be the additional concentrated and toxic items teens may place within them.

Causes and Risk Factors of Teen Smoking

The path to smoking is not a straight line. All teenagers are different, and smoking can start for many reasons. Some teens may be impressionable and start smoking due to media influence. Others may begin smoking because of peer pressure. More likely, smoking begins as a way to experiment with something new to assert independence. According to the American Lung Association, there are also other causes:

  • Teens may see smoking as a “cheap” habit in places where tobacco taxes are low
  • Their parents may have been smokers
  • They seek a calming drug like nicotine, which does not include intoxication

The bottom line is that teens have a level of independence and access to tobacco, but they still lack the maturity to see the long-term effects of their decisions.

What Are the Risks and Side Effects?

There are no safe tobacco products. Tobacco products all include nicotine, which is harmful to a teen’s developing body and brain. However, tobacco smoking results in the following risks and side effects.

The short-term side effects are:

  • Stained teeth and gum disease
  • Bad breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Susceptibility to upper and lower respiratory infections
  • Headaches
  • Increased heart rate and heart palpitations
  • Reduced sense of smell

The long-term side effects are:

  • An increased risk of cancers, especially lung cancer
  • An increased risk of chronic lung diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)
  • An increased risk for heart disease and stroke

Red Flags to Look For

Spotting the signs of smoking in your teen is essential because it is necessary to assist them in quitting smoking. It is much less complicated to quit smoking as a new smoker in their teen years than as an adult smoker who has had the habit for a decade. If your teen remains addicted to smoking, they will most likely experience a lifetime of health consequences.

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Signs of teen smoking:

  • Finding cigarettes, lighters, cigarette butts, or ashes around their belongings
  • Smelling smoke on their belongings or on their person
  • Bad breath or the constant use of gum, mouthwash, or perfume to mask the smell of smoke
  • Yellowing teeth
  • Burn or yellow marks on their fingers or nails
  • A chronic cough or rough voice
  • Leaving the area for a few minutes every so often, perhaps to “get fresh air” or “take a walk”

How to Help Your Teen Quit Smoking

If you find out your teen is smoking, do not brush it under the rug. Give them some help and encourage them to quit. Smoking will severely compromise their health and shorten their life, so it is vital that your teen gets the support they need.

If you do not think your teen wants to quit, the chances are that you are wrong. A Canadian Cancer Society study found that 70% of teenagers make repeated attempts to quit smoking on their own, but most do not know how. Here are a few suggestions to help you support your teen in their efforts to quit smoking.

Be a Good Role Model

It gives your teen the wrong message when they see you doing something you tell them not to do. Whether or not they want to admit it, teens value the opinions of their parents. They will also emulate what you do, rather than what you say. So, if you are smoking, combine efforts with your teen to quit. Make sure your teen understands that the rules apply to you too.

Create a Smoke-Free Environment

Don't allow visitors or other family members to smoke. When having a party of dinner, kindly ask attendees not to smoke on your premises. Setting the tone in your home and having your teen see that you are serious about it can add weight to your words.

Make a Plan

Creating an open, supportive dialogue about quitting smoking is essential. An open discussion allows you to create a plan with your teen to quit smoking. Make a list of ways your teenager, with your support, can manage the withdrawals and cravings that occur when quitting.
Seek Outside Assistance

If your teen is having a very challenging time quitting smoking, it might be an excellent time to seek outside guidance. A visit to the doctor or therapist may help provide insight into other ways to quit smoking, like medications or counseling.

Stay Ahead of the Game

Start the conversation about the dangers of smoking early before your teen is exposed to tobacco. Preparing your children early on can help them avoid peer pressure and other influences. Arm them with facts about smoking and all the diseases that may occur as a result. Staying ahead can help ensure that your teen will never have to quit smoking, because they will never start.