70% of smokers say they want to quit. Most smokers start when they are teenagers.

Tobacco is addictive, out of the 3 million smokers in Australia, 70% want to quite but find the habit very hard to kick even though they are aware of the health risks.

Saturday 1 December 2012, saw a new turning point in the battle to help fight the health risks caused by smoking. The introduction of the plain packaging legislation means that Australia is the first country in the world to get rid of the attractive packaging used by tobacco companies to sell cigarettes. Here are some tips to help keep teenagers smoke free.

10 tips to help keep teenagers smoke free
1. Lead the way: Young people are more likely to smoke if they see their parents doing it. Parents should try to quit, but if this is proving difficult they can make sure they don’t smoke in the house or around their children. They can explain to teenagers that smoking makes them unhappy and that they are trying to stop. Let them see how difficult it is and tell them it is better to never start as it is very addictive.

2. Understand why teenagers smoke: most teenagers smoke to get attention, be rebellious, look cool, appear older than they are, to fit in with friends, control their weight or help to relieve stress. Encourage your teenager to make good choices, and talk about the consequences of bad choices. You might also talk with them about how tobacco companies try to influence people about smoking through advertisements or product placement. These companies create the perception that smoking is glamorous and that all the cool people do it.

3. Say no to smoking: You may not think they are listening, but young people who know their parents have strong views against smoking because it is addictive and causes health issues, are actually influenced by their parents’ views. Be open with them, talk about the health risks of smoking.

4. Smoking is not a good look: despite the fact that many tobacco companies make smoking look glamorous, it isn’t. Remind young people that cigarette smoke clings to clothes, makes teeth yellow, gives you bad breath, can cause sores, bleeding in the mouth and cracked lips.

5. The price you pay: if all else fails make young people aware of how much smoking costs. Get them to add up the cost of buying 5 packets of cigarettes a week, and then get them to multiply that by 52 so they can see how much it costs a year. Then get them to focus on something they really want that costs about the same and help them to make a budget. Offer to contribute to that budget if they give up smoking or promise not to start. Help them to achieve that goal.

6. Prepare them for peer pressure: Friends who smoke may try and pressure others to smoke. Talk to teenagers about how they can say ‘no’ to cigarettes when they are offered them while out socialising. The more they practice saying ‘no’, the easier it will be to say ‘no’ when they are confronted with that situation.

7. Treat it as an addiction: Many teenagers don’t realise how addictive smoking is and how hard it is to give up once they start. They think that the occasional smoke when out with friends won’t hurt and that they are in control of the situation.  However young people can become addicted with intermittent and relatively low levels of smoking. Remind them that most adult smokers start as teens.

8. Find the triggers: If your teenager does smoke then you can help them to stop by finding out what triggers the urge to smoke. Do they smoke when they go out to eat? When they are with a certain group of friends? Only when they are stressed or worried about something? Then help them to change their life style to avoid these triggers.

9. Kick the habit: If they are trying to quit then expect them to go through frequent mood changes while they are fighting off the cravings for tobacco, including lack of energy, headaches, depression, agitation, stomach aches and an increased appetite. During this time suggest they exercise, munch on healthy snacks, find a new interest or hobby and hang out with people who don’t smoke. They can also drink lots of water, delay the craving until it goes away, talk to someone and take deep breaths until they feel calm and in control again.

10. Quit for life: write a list with them of why they are quitting and put it up so they can keep reminding themselves when they get tempted. Mark it on the calendar so they can keep going back to it and see how long it has been since they smoked.  Get active with them and take up a new sport together. If they slip up don’t come down too hard on them. Let them know that you understand how hard it is to quit and encourage them to get back on track. Reward them for their continued efforts, kicking any addiction isn’t easy.

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.
Source: Kidsmatter. Mayoclinic. News.com.au