Since September 1, 2006, children, teachers and everyone working in schools or visiting them have enjoyed a smoke-free environment on all Québec school premises! From that date on, the Tobacco Act prohibits anyone from smoking or supplying tobacco to minors on the grounds of a pre-school, primary school or high school. This good news alone is sure to have a positive effect on preventing smoking among youngsters. Maybe you want to discuss this topic with your teen?
Preventing smoking in youngsters: what parents need to know
The family has a major influence
Many studies have now confirmed this fact: children are more likely to become smokers if their parents smoke, and girls are more at risk than boys.
A parent who smokes is setting their child an example that they may well follow, and is also making it much easier for the child to get hold of cigarettes. The youngster can then experiment for the first time, and what starts as an experiment quickly turns into addiction.
- To prevent your child from smoking, you can adopt anti-smoking rules (total or partial) at home, because prevention has to begin at home; that is where it is most effective. Moreover, your teen is very likely to give up smoking if they live in a smoke-free home. Explain to your child that you do not want them to start smoking, and set clear rules about no smoking at home.
- As a parent and the significant adult in your child's life, your influence is key in reducing the risk that your child and the young people around you will start smoking.
- They will also be less inclined to smoke if, in addition to setting rules, you talk about the health risks of tobacco, whether or not you are a smoker.
- Take an interest in your child's leisure time and talk to them about health topics.
- In the last 30 years, many studies have found a link between starting to smoke and smoking in older brothers or sisters. So be on the alert.
- Showing lots of interest in your child and their leisure interests, and their bond with you, are also important for preventing smoking. These are all factors that boost a child's self-esteem and performance at school, and make them better able to cope with the different types of stressful situations that are part of life.
- Adopt a tone that is consistent with school messages about smoking: support the school administration in applying the prohibition on smoking on school grounds.
- Encourage youngsters to get involved in awareness and prevention activities organized by the school.
- Be a positive role model for your child, whether or not you smoke: encourage them not to start smoking or help them to stop; do not give them cigarettes; and use this as an opportunity to stop smoking yourself.
- Make your child aware of the consequences of violating the law at school, and support the school administration when it has to apply sanctions. The consequences and punishments for breaking the smoking regulations are usually set out in the school's code of conduct.
Friends and peers also play an important role
Most teens are strongly influenced by their friends and the perception of what is or is not acceptable in a group. The same applies to smoking.
If some of their best friends are smokers, this is probably the most powerfully persuasive factor leading kids to smoke, and the one most commonly identified in teens aged 14 to 18.
- Teens tend to underestimate how many of their peers are smokers; the number may be as much as 50% higher than they think. Talk to your child about their perception of smoking in their peers and be straight with them: 15% of high-school students are regular smokers. This is still too many but the trend is encouraging, considering that in 2000, the figure was 29%. 1
Your participation and youth participation
The rules parents set at home, their behaviours and attitudes towards smoking, and their discussions with their children about the topic are all important factors in shaping a youngster's opinion about smoking. And this opinion is what determines whether or not they decide to use tobacco.
Children themselves agree that their parents are their primary source of information. Their parents have the duty to help their kids remain non-smokers, even if they themselves smoke.
- Regardless of whether you are a smoker, as a parent, you are responsible for monitoring your child's smoking status, discussing with them the risks of tobacco use, pointing out how hard it is to give up because nicotine is so addictive, and clearly stating that you strongly disapprove of them smoking.
- As the parent and significant adult in the life of your child and the young people around you, you have a major role to play in supporting a non-smoking society.
Here's something else you can do: make a point of supporting your child's school, for example help to organize prevention and awareness programs, and reinforce educational messages at home with concrete examples.
1Institut de la statistique du Québec, 2008.
To find out more about how family and society influence smoking in youth, see Plan québécois de lutte contre le tabagisme 2006-2010, pages 17 to 20.
To find out more about how family and society influence smoking in youth, see , pages 17 to 20.
Tabac pour en parler aux ados de l'Institut suisse de prévention de l’alcoolisme et autres toxicomanies.