Talking about Smoking
We all know smoking is bad in every possible way and that it's certainly not cool to smoke. But each generation has it learn its lessons anew. Your teen might think that smoking looks like the best thing on the planet because some heroes and friends do it.
How do you convince your teen that it's a bad idea? Even more, how do you persuade them of that if you smoke yourself?
By now there should be no doubt about the health dangers of smoking, with increased risk of heart disease, lung cancer, shortness of breath and so on - it's a no-brainer, and billboard advertising helps push the message home.
Ideally, you should have started talking to your kids about smoking when they were young, and reinforcing the message regularly with examples from family and friends. If a relative smoked and died from lung cancer, use that, for instance. It might seem gruesome, but it can be very effective.
If your teen plays sports, remind them that they wouldn't have the lung power to play the same way if they smoked. That can be a powerful tool - remind then that football players, and all athletes, don't smoke.
Point out that smoking is addictive, some say more so than heroin. Ask them if they really want to be a slave to a drug, or whether they'd rather be in control of their own bodies.
Smoking is expensive and becomes more so every year as the tax goes up in each budget. Sit down with your teen and do the maths. Most cigarettes are over £5 for 20. Do they really want to be spending all their pocket money to feed an addiction that will make their clothes stink, their breath smell and which will discolour their teeth? Ask them if they can afford it - the simple, plain truth is that they can't. Don't be gentle about it. Point out just how much it would cost in a year if they smoked 10 cigarettes a day - it's probably far more than they thought.
The Cool Factor
Many teens start smoking because their friends do it or because they think it looks cool. Ask them if they think it's cool to be an addict, because, as smokers, that's what they'd be. If their friends smoke, that doesn't mean they have to. It shows more individualism to say no when offered a cigarette than it does to take it and smoke it. Maybe, you might suggest, it's cooler not to smoke and be the leader - let the others give up and follow your teen instead.
If They Already Smoke
If your teen is already a smoker, don't panic and think all is lost. There are plenty of ways to help them quit, although they'll need the desire to take that step before it can really work. Talk to your GP, who can refer your teen to free NHS quit smoking groups or suggest other strategies. They won't have been smoking long, so the damage won't be too severe, and it shouldn't be too hard to break the addiction.
What If You Smoke
Of course, if you're a smoker and you're urging your teen not to smoke, you can seem like a hypocrite, and that might be pointed out to you. Be willing to admit you were foolish taking it up in the first place, calculate how much you've spent over the years (the amount will probably shock you), and make a pact with your teen - if they don't start, you'll stop.You know it makes sense for so many reasons, and with the right support, especially encouragement from your teen, you can do it. You'll feel much better when you do stop!