General Health & Wellness • Sep 13, 2010

How do you handle the issue of smoking with your teens?


Despite the overwhelming evidence that smoking is a severe health threat, many adolescents still succumb to the temptation. As doctors, we can often tell just by the scent of tobacco in our patients’ rooms. Incredibly, this seems to happen with greater frequency among patients who complain about respiratory symptoms (such as cough or asthma).

But second-hand smoke is obviously just as dangerous: infants and children that are exposed to cigarette smoke are more likely to get ear infections and asthma. More dramatically, infants that inhale second-hand smoke are at a higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome!

I could fill pages describing the severe dangers inherent in smoking, but instead of focusing on the problem itself, I would like us to start a discussion about some of the available solutions.

First, acknowledging that smoking is a true addiction reaffirms the importance of never even starting! In other words, if your teenagers will never light their first cigarette, they will never face the difficult struggle of quitting. You obviously play an important role in this process. But how should you address the issue with your teens? How will they react? What should you do if they deny smoking while their clothes reek of tobacco?

As I have never smoked, my understanding of the difficulties of quitting is based on what I have read and what I witnessed among friends, family, and patients. Give the scale of the challenge, we can greatly benefit from sharing our knowledge and experiences. I therefore encourage you to please tell your stories: for example, what have you tried, and what did and what didn’t work? Your answers will motivate and help many others!

In the meantime, here are some additional helpful resources:


2) or call 1800-ACS-2345 (The American Cancer Society offers a “Guide to Quitting Smoking” and many other helpful resources)

3) Barnes-Jewish Hospital National Cancer Institute: Freedom from Smoking Program Smoking Quit Line (314) 454-7848 1-800-422-6237

4) American Lung Association National Network of Tobacco Cessation 1-800-586-4872 1-800-784-8669