Did you catch your teenager smoking? Wow. Whether your teenager started drinking or smoking just because his friends were doing it doesn’t matter. What matters is that he may now be addicted and needs your support to help him stop. It is not going to be easy for him, as a lot of his peers are probably smoking and drinking, too. According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, nearly 80 percent of teenagers report having tried alcohol by the time they reach high school. While some teens may be able to quit on their own, others need help in the form of medical or other formal interventions in order to quit.
What To Do
Do you feel comfortable talking to your teenager about smoking? If not, it’s a great way to talk to your teen’s health care provider to discuss the dangers of smoking in an effort to urge her to quit. Her physician can also refer her to a drinking or smoking cessation program in your area (see Resources below) if she’s willing. However, your teen has to decide to change, you can’t do it for them ( unfortunately).
Write It Down
Have your teen write down why she wants to quit smoking or drinking. Sometimes when teens see the reasons for quitting in writing, it helps to put things in perspective. Even though the health reasons for quitting are obvious, your teen may indicate saving money or having more time for sports and other activities as her primary motivators. It doesn’t matter what her reasons are for quitting, she needs to start somewhere. She can always add more reasons to the list later.
Encourage your teen to talk to another adult whom he trusts about his drinking if he does not feel comfortable talking to you. He may be able to tell that person why he drinks. Teenagers often begin to experiment with alcohol as a way to fit in with their peers. Most teens are simply curious, while others say drinking makes them feel good, so they drink to relax. Sometimes teens consider drinking alcohol as being harmless because they see their parents and other adults drinking alcohol socially.
Consider nicotine-replacement therapy as one way to help your teen quit smoking. In some cases, doctors may recommend nicotine patches or gum for teens and adolescents who want to quit smoking. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics says that most teenagers seem to prefer using the patch. There is also a nicotine nasal spray now available by prescription, but pediatricians do not recommend that adolescents and young teens use it.
Contact the American Lung Association for more information about the Not On Tobacco (N-O-T) program to help teens quit smoking (see Resources below). N-O-T and other similar programs work by teaching teens life management skills like how to deal with stress and make informative decisions. In addition, these types of programs encourage teenagers to examine their peer and family relationships.
Persuade your teen to choose a specific day sometime within the next couple of weeks to quit smoking. You could even tell her that you will join her in the challenge, even if its not quitting smoking or drinking — maybe it’s television, starting an exercise program or Have her mark the date on the calendar. Explain that she will be expected to toss out all her cigarettes, matches and lighters on that day. She should throw away the ashtrays, too, as she doesn’t need any reminders.
Ask your teen to stay away from hangouts or refrain from attending activities where he might be tempted to drink or smoke. A study published in “Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research,” reported that teens say avoiding environments where there is alcohol is one of the most sensible things they can do to try to control or stop their drinking.
Help Her Keep Busy
Help your teen to keep busy. The more distracted she is, the less likely it is that she will tempted to drink or smoke. If she does find herself in a situation where she slips, make her understand that she cannot give up because she took one drink or smoked one cigarette. The important thing is for her to think about why it happened and then try again. Support from family and friends may not be enough. She might want to consider joining a support group to be with others facing similar challenges (see Resources below). Bear in mind that your teen needs you to help keep her from becoming discouraged.
- Teens who drink alcohol face the possibility of multiple health risks. Studies show that alcohol significantly increases the chances for a teen to be involved in a fatal motor vehicle accident, suicide or homicide. Unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases are other risks associated with teens and alcohol use.
- A previous study conducted at the University of Washington found that adolescents who regularly drank alcohol beginning at age 13 were more likely than their peers who did not drink to be overweight and have high blood pressure by early adulthood. Both these factors increase the risk for heart disease and liver problems later in life.
- Your teen is probably going to experience some symptoms of withdrawal when she quits smoking because nicotine is physically addictive. Lack of energy, headaches, depression, increased appetite, irritability, and dry mouth are all common symptoms, which will pass.