Confronting Your Teenagers About Their Smoking

Raising Children

Tammy George

young teenager smoking

Teenagers will experiment. It’s in their inquisitive nature and part of growing up. But no parent wants to see their child’s experimentation turn into a life-long addiction.

Thankfully the rate of smoking teens has steadily declined over the past 20 years but there are still too many taking up the habit. If your teen is one of them, that’s one too many in your eyes. But what can you do about it?


If all the signs are there that your teen is smoking but deny it, don’t accuse them of lying and take a hard line. The aim of the conversation is not to get your teen to admit their error and promise never to do it again. Good chance that won’t happen. Instead calmly tell them that you would like to have a chat about smoking anyway.

Keeping the Communication Open

Easier said than done. Communication and teenagers don’t often go together, particularly if it’s between parent and child. If your teenager uses grunts to communicate, then you can feel as though communication is all one-way but don’t give up. Use open-ended questions to encourage a response. ‘Do you know how you would respond if someone asked if you would like a cigarette?’

Give them the tools to handle situations of peer pressure. Make some suggestions for answers they can use. ‘I want to be able to run around the footy field,’ or ‘No thanks, I’ve seen photos of smokers with lines around their mouth?’

Ask your son or daughter why they think people take up smoking. Agree with their answer but then counter it with a response why it’s not a valid reason.

Don’t try to use the grim reader effect. Telling a teen they could die from smoking in a few decades time probably won’t have the desired effect. Most teenagers can’t see much past next weekend, and of course, they think they are indestructible.   

Tell them how hard it is to break the habit. Let them know everyone thinks they can just give it up whenever they like, but it’s not that easy once they’re hooked. Remind them that it’s an expensive habit and the money could be using on more exciting things in life.

Remember having a good relationship with your teen will help with other problems they may be experiencing from bullying, stress about schoolwork and relationships.

Don’t be too Judgey

Being overly critical and judgemental can hurt your relationship. If your teen thinks you are unreasonable, they can stop communicating with you. Talk don’t lecture. Try to remember how you felt towards your parents when you were the same age. Think back to the times when you felt your parents didn’t understand and gave you a hard time.

You don’t need to stop parenting and become your teen’s friend. That doesn’t help anyone.  Just consider what your teen is going through and try to see things from their perspective before talking to them.

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Tammy George

Please note: Tammy's blog is general advice only. For further information on this topic please consult your healthcare professional.

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