Keep Your Kids Tobacco-free
by Amy Scholten, MPH
Studies have found that children really do listen when parents advise them to avoid tobacco, drugs, and alcohol. Take some time to talk to your children about the hazards of using tobacco. It can make a big difference in their lives.
Facts About Tobacco Use
Tobacco use is the most preventable cause of death in the United States. It causes heart diseases, cancers, and strokes. Children may not realize or understand the hazards associated with all types of tobacco.
Compared to children who do not use tobacco, children who do use tobacco may:
There are common myths among children regarding tobacco use. Here are the realities:
Take a Stand at Home—Early and Often
Studies show that movies, TV, and advertising do have an influence on children who start smoking. Despite this, parents can be the greatest influence in their children's lives. Here are some guidelines for helping keep your children tobacco free:
Talk About It
Do not be afraid to talk about tobacco. Keep these simple tips in mind when you feel the time is right for conversation:
Be an Example
What if your child has already tried smoking? Do not be confrontational or set ultimatums. Dig a bit deeper and find out why your child is smoking. It may be easier to help your child quit. Remember that nicotine is addictive and you will need to take action quickly so that you can reduce the chances of your child becoming a habitual smoker.
Make a Difference in Your Community
You can take action outside of your home, too. For example:
American Lung Association
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
Canadian Cancer Society
The Lung Association
Hanewinkel R, Isensee B, et al. Cigarette advertising and teen smoking initiation. Pediatrics. 2011;127(2):e271-e280.
Sargent JD, Tanksi S, et al. Influence of motion picture rating on adolescent response to movie smoking. Pediatrics. 2012;130(2):228-236.
Preventing tobacco use among youth and young adults. A Report of the Surgeon General. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
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Accessed October 24, 2016.
Smoking. Nemours Kid's Health website. Available at:
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Updated June 2016. Accessed October 24, 2016.
Tobacco use. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114788/Tobacco-use. Updated April 6, 2016. Accessed October 24, 2016.
6/5/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114788/Tobacco-use: Dalton MA, Beach ML, et al. Early exposure to movie smoking predicts established smoking by older teens and young adults. Pediatrics. 2009;123(4):e551-e558.
10/5/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114788/Tobacco-use: Kim MJ, Fleming CB, et al. Individual and social influences on progression to daily smoking during adolescence. Pediatrics. 2009;124(3):895-902.
Last reviewed October 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 11/25/2014
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