How can you best handle this? Coming off as too strong and authoritative might invite "rebellion". Too lenient makes it seem okay.

What is the best response for driving home the dangers and risks of smoking, while getting your child to actually listen to you?

  • Do you give them money? Cigarrettes are extremely expensive in the US, and illegal to purchase for under 18s.
    – philosodad
    Commented Mar 15, 2013 at 0:01
  • 1
    @philosodad I smoked before 18, did not get an allowance (I worked), and had little difficulty in purchasing cigarettes (despite it being illegal). Granted, packs were a fraction of what they cost now....
    – user420
    Commented Mar 15, 2013 at 0:04
  • that doesn't really help me to understand the specific relationship being asked about in the question. Neither parents nor teenagers are homogenous groups, and the answer to the question will depend on specifics.
    – philosodad
    Commented Mar 15, 2013 at 0:36
  • 3
    @philosodad It is entirely possible to answer this without knowing the specific relationship (in this case it is a hypothetical). Granted, not every solution will work for every teenager, but a good answer can apply to a wide range of situations.
    – user420
    Commented Mar 15, 2013 at 0:40
  • 1
    @philosodad As I said, this is a hypothetical, so if it helps you post an answer, decide for yourself whether a parent gives the teenager money :)
    – user420
    Commented Mar 15, 2013 at 12:01

5 Answers 5


To build on Graham's answer:

  • Visit people who are dying due to: Lung cancer, Oral cancer, Emphysema, etc. I would guess your local hospital, if you're in a populated enough area, has a program for this purpose.
    • Talk about family members you may have lost due to smoking related illness, and how much you miss them. What life might be like if they hadn't smoked.
  • If you formerly smoked, be open and honest about when and why you started, how long you did, why you quit, and what your regrets are.

I think honesty is the best policy here. My explanation would go something like:

What are the pros?

  • Your peers, maybe someone that you want to be attracted to you, think you're "cool" or attractive. (The real irony is that later in life we (most of us, anyway) find smoking to be a non-starter; the ultimate unattractive habit!)
  • A buzz.
  • An ice-breaker ("got a light?", "want to go outside and burn one?")
  • Near-automatic acceptance to a social circle (particularly enticing in a new environment, such as your first year of high school or college, moving to a new town, etc)

What are the cons?

  • Decreased overall health (enjoy running, swimming, or biking? not for long!)
  • Waste of money (A pack a day, at $3/pack, costs you $1,000+ per year. Smoke for 20 years? That's $21,900.)
  • Chemical dependence (withdrawal, etc)
  • Extreme increase to your risk of at least 1-2 types of cancer, possibly more
  • As many people think smoking is gross + a turn off, if not more than the opposite
  • It is said that kissing a smoker is like licking an ashtray. That would limit your dating options.

"Is it worth $21k + extreme cancer risk + overal lower quality of life, to get a buzz? To look cool? Or for an excuse to say hello? Just say hi."

I guess this method relies a bit on teaching your kids pragmatism in all aspects of life, though.

  • 5
    You'll also have your sense of smell and taste diminished significantly. Like food? Enjoy ash!
    – Aarthi
    Commented Nov 18, 2011 at 15:38
  • 2
    +1, although I'm not convinced warning them of the long term consequences (ie lung cancer) will do much good. They likely already know about the risks, but the consequences are too far in the future for them to believe it will affect them. Commented Nov 18, 2011 at 15:58
  • I added another contra argument. Feel free to revise/revert. Commented Nov 19, 2011 at 11:19
  • 1
    Meh. I knew all that, had my dad tell me about it, saw pictures of dead peoples lungs, watched my grandfather die of emphysema and cancer, and still smoked. Teens are idiots. kotaku.com.au/2010/06/…
    – philosodad
    Commented Mar 15, 2013 at 0:51
  • Come to England. Not $3 a pack, but up to £13.60.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Nov 3, 2021 at 14:13

If there was an easy answer, there would be a website for it. I thought it was heartening that "Youth smokers make more attempts to quit smoking than adult smokers."

This may be why education is an important part of the solution. If their fear of the consequences is greater than the social rewards, it may be easier for them to quit. Unfortunately, the social rewards can be quite high.

Though I would be tempted to forbid them to smoke and forbid their friends too, this is likely to alienate them. As with any adult behaviour, now they have to deal with the consequences. It is their response to these natural consequences that will determine whether or not they continue since this started as a choice.

However, depending on their age, I would take more decisive action. For a younger child, I would treat this much more severely and invoke the aid of a counsellor, supervise their activities more closely so that they had less opportunity to engage in the behaviour, and make their teachers and the parents of their friends aware. For those parents that were not supportive of my concerns, I would not allow my child to be at their house or with their child unsupervised by someone I trust. In short, I would treat this as I would if they were doing any drug recreationally.

If my child were closer 18, maybe as young as 16, I would approach it in the same way I would approach any decision I thought was not in their best interest:

  1. ask them about why they made this choice, how it makes them feel, and why they do or do not want to continue. There are reasons why they started and these need to be addressed.
  2. inundate them with information on the effects of smoking and drug addiction. They need to be aware that this is a gateway drug and that making this choice will make it easier to make other risky choices that they might not have otherwise made.
  3. explain how their actions affect me and our family
  4. explain my expectations of their behaviour and negotiate reasonable parameters which essentially prevent non-smokers from being affected by (coming into contact with) their smoking
  5. encourage them to put limits on their habit and identify when they would consider it bad/too much and seek help
  • +1 for the age-specific approaches, and for a list of specific reactions and discussion points! Commented Nov 19, 2011 at 11:13

In addition to the other answers I'd like to offer up one that may seem simple but yet it can be extremely powerful especially if you feel your teen may be rebellious.

Obviously you can't tell a rebellious teenager not to do something. They will feel compelled to do it. But if you make it sound like it is they're decision to make and how disappointed you are in that decision then you have a chance of getting through.

I suggest talking to your child. Let them know that you are aware they are smoking, also let them know that you believe they are smart enough to know the consequences, and then finally express your disappointment in the decision they've made.


Honestly, the best way to tell them is to show them what really happens to your lungs, your heart, your everything when you start smoking. I smoked in high school, ive been clean for about a year and a half. What got my to quit was seeing those pictures in my anatomy class in high school. Absolutly disgusting, and i swore to never pick up a cig again. Just show them what really happens.


There are multiple ways of dealing with it:

1) I agree with KASDEGA, that is what exactly what my dad with me and he told me whenever I decide to quit ask him for help. It didn't made me quit smoking immediately, but it made me feel that how disappointed he was.

2) My mother on the other side tried to educate me by asking "Have you calculated what is this habit costing me in terms of money?" While I was not money conscious when I was a teenager, but a couple of years later, I realised that the habit was affecting my productivity with my studies. After smoking for 6 years I quit smoking for good. If he is hardworking then educate him how it affects productivity.

3) If he is scared of poor health, take him to place they educate on consequences of smoking.

4) If he is money conscious then educate him about how it is affecting or will affect his pockets.

5) If he is a sports person, educate him how this habit eats up his stamina.

My parents always expressed their concern about my smoking, sometimes I rebelled because it annoyed me but one day I realised that I should quit.It is been 15 years I quit but I still remember their role in educating me.

This is not only going to bother you but it will a big challenge for your son to quit smoking too. So be patient and show empathy. From my experience, patience and support you provide to your dependent son will be the key.

You must log in to answer this question.