6 tips to help your teen stay tobacco-free



As teenagers go through high school, they are faced with pressures and opportunities to try harmful products such as tobacco. As a parent, it is important to have conversations with your teenager about the harmful effects of smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke so your teenager says “no” to the peer pressure.

While the majority of youth have never smoked, all youth continue to be at risk to start smoking and some are at increased risk for smoking initiation and addiction.

High school is a very important time to talk with teenagers about tobacco products, as 11-per-cent of Ottawa student smokers began smoking in high school. In 2013, one in 10 Ottawa students reported smoking at least one cigarette in the past year, with four-per-cent reporting they were a daily smoker.

New products such as water pipes and e-cigarettes are becoming increasingly popular. One-in-five high school students in Ottawa had used an e-cigarette at least once in their lifetime, and 13-per-cent of students had used a water pipe or hookah at least once.

Having the conversation about tobacco use early on is helpful, but be sure to continue the conversation as your teenager enters their young-adult life, as the highest smoking rate in Canada is among 20-24 year olds, at 20-per-cent.

Sometimes it can be difficult to talk with your teenager; here are some good points to share to help your teen remain smoke-free:


Prepare your child for pressures and stressors
Talk with your teenager about the pressure they may face from their peers to try smoking. Remind them of the importance of not starting to smoke, and staying away from second-hand smoke. Second-hand smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals and 50 are known to cause cancer.

High school can come with stress! Some students think smoking tobacco helps them be less stressed, but smoking is calming the craving for nicotine, not the anxiety.

Instead, prepare your child for the increased stressors they may face. Encourage healthy habits such as adequate amounts of sleep, regular exercise, balanced healthy meals and time management skills.

Doing schoolwork for a few hours each day rather than staying up all night or putting it off until the last minute can help your teen live a well-balanced student life. Also, encourage frequent breaks during study periods.

Smoking occasionally or ‘social smoking’ is unhealthy
Young people think they can smoke from time to time during parties, but because of the addictive nature of nicotine, the majority of young adults trying tobacco products become daily smokers. Youth can become addicted to smoking within weeks of smoking only a few cigarettes per day.

Smoking is not the “cool” thing to do!
The tobacco industry markets to youth by making smoking seem like a “cool” adult activity. Because of this, youth will often smoke to feel more mature or fit in with a desired group. Remind your child that not everyone smokes. Eighty-one-per-cent of Ottawa students report they have never smoked in their lifetime!

Focus on the short-term outcomes of smoking
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease and death , but youth tend to believe they will quit smoking before the chronic health issues begin. Because of this, it is important to focus on the short-term effects like bad breath, smelly clothes, and the cost of smoking.

Hang out in smoke-free spaces
Encourage your teen to get out and enjoy all the smoke-free spaces in the City of Ottawa, including city sports fields, city parks and playgrounds, and city beaches.

Model the behaviour you want to see in your child
Be a non-smoker. If you do smoke, try to quit. Also, keep your home and car smoke free.

For help to quit smoking visit MyQuit.ca or call 1-877-376-1701.

You can help your budding teen to live smoke free by using these helpful tips!

Susan Brown-Charbonneau and Jessica Brett are Ottawa Public Health Nurses.

Ottawa student drug use and health (OSDUH) report 2014. Ottawa Public Health. 2014.
Ottawa student drug use and health (OSDUH) report 2014. Ottawa Public Health. 2014.
Prevention [module slides]. Ontario Tobacco Research Unit. 2015.
Prevention [module slides]. Ontario Tobacco Research Unit. 2015.
Ottawa student drug use and health (OSDUH) report 2014. Ottawa Public Health. 2014.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2012.