Health Library

Keep Your Kids Tobacco-free

Studies have found that kids really do listen when parents advise them to avoid tobacco , drugs , and alcohol . Take some time to talk to your kids about the hazards of using tobacco; it can make a big difference in their lives.

Facts About Tobacco Use

Kids may not realize the hazards associated with all types of tobacco. Compared to kids who do not use tobacco, kids who do use tobacco may:

  • Develop more respiratory problems
  • Have more asthma attacks
  • Get sick and go to the doctor more often
  • Have poorer athletic performance

There are common myths among kids regarding tobacco use. Take some time to highlight the realities:

  • Spit tobacco, cigars, and low-tar and additive-free cigarettes are not safe alternatives to regular cigarettes.
  • Most teens, adults, and athletes do not use tobacco.
  • Tobacco use is the most preventable cause of death in the United States. It causes heart disease, cancers, and strokes .
Take a Stand at Home—Early and Often

Studies show that movies, TV, and advertising do have an influence on kids who start smoking. Despite this, parents can be the greatest influence in their kids' lives. Here are some guidelines for helping keep your kids tobacco free:

Talk About It

Do not be afraid to talk about tobacco. Keep these simple tips in mind when you feel the time is right for conversation:

  • Begin talking to your kids about tobacco use when they are five or six years old and continue right through high school. Children can start using tobacco and become addicted before they enter high school.
  • Talk directly to your children about the risks of tobacco use. If friends or relatives died from tobacco-related illnesses, let your kids know.
  • Tell your kids how you feel about tobacco use. Let them know that you would be disappointed if they used tobacco.
  • Talk to your kids about the offensiveness of tobacco use: the smell, bad breath, yellowing of teeth, among others.
  • Talk about the false glamorization of tobacco in the media.
  • If your children ask why tobacco is legal, tell them that the rules do not always make sense. Explain to them that it is still a very deadly drug.
Be an Example
  • If you use tobacco, you can still make a difference. Your best move, of course, is to try to quit . Meanwhile, do not use tobacco in your children’s presence. Tell them that you wish you did not use tobacco because it is a nasty, dirty, addictive habit. Do not offer tobacco to your children, and do not leave it where they can easily get it.
  • Know if your kids’ friends use tobacco. Help your kids to come up with ways to say no to tobacco.
  • Discourage your kids from buying items (eg, t-shirts, back packs) associated with cigarette companies.
  • Do not waste money on tobacco. Use it for clothes, CDs, computer games, and movies.

What if your child has already tried smoking? Do not be confrontational or set ultimatums. Dig a bit deeper and find out why your child is smoking. It may be easier to help your child quit. Remember that nicotine is addictive and you will need to take action quickly so that your can reduce the chances of your child becoming a habitual smoker.

Make a Difference in Your Community

You can take action outside of your home, too. For example:

  • Vote with your pocketbook. Support businesses that do not sell tobacco to kids. Give your business to establishments that are tobacco-free.
  • Be sure your schools and all school events are tobacco-free.
  • Partner with your local tobacco prevention programs. Call your local health department and your cancer, heart, or lung association to learn how you can get involved.
  • If your children are involved in sports, ask their coaches to talk to them about the effects of smoking on athletic performance.


American Academy of Pediatrics

American Lung Association


Canadian Cancer Society

The Lung Association


Hanewinkel R, Isensee B, Sargent JD, et al. Cigarette Advertising and Teen Smoking Initiation. Pediatrics . 2011;127(2):e271-280.

Sargent JD, Tanksi S, Stoolmiller M. Influence of Motion Picture Rating on Adolescent Response to Movie Smoking. Pediatrics . 2012;130(2):228-236.

Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults. A Report of the Surgeon General. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: . Accessed December 28, 2012.

Smoking. Kids Health website. Available at: . Updated March 2010. Accessed December 28, 2012.

Stop Smoking. American Lung Association website. Available at: . Accessed December 28, 2012.

6/5/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Dalton MA, Beach ML, Adachi-Mejia AM, et al. Early exposure to movie smoking predicts established smoking by older teens and young adults. Pediatrics . 2009;123(4):e551-558.

10/5/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Kim MJ, Fleming CB, Catalano RF. Individual and social influences on progression to daily smoking during adolescence. Pediatrics. 2009 Aug 10. [Epub ahead of print]

Last reviewed December 2012 by Brian Randall, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Baptist Flame

Baptist Health Systems

Find A Doctor



Baptist Medical Clinic

Patients & Visitors


Contact Us

Physician Tools

Careers at Baptist

Employee Links

Online Services

At Baptist Health Systems

At Baptist Medical Center

close ×