Smokers start young. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nearly 90 percent of adult smokers start before the age of 18. Because their brains are still forming, adolescents are particularly vulnerable to the addictive effects of nicotine. Talking to your kids about tobacco can help them understand its danger and help them make the choice to be tobacco free for life.
 
By the time they’re five or six years old, children can understand simple messages about healthy choices. Tell them tobacco is harmful and must be avoided in all forms. With all the new tobacco, e-cigarette and vaping products available, it’s important to go beyond talking about cigarettes. 
 
Keep At It
 
The “tobacco talk” isn’t a one-time issue. Kids will be exposed to tobacco products and marketing, and as they get older they may be pressured by their peers to try smoking or other tobacco products. Be consistent and reinforce the message over time. Be specific about how it could harm them, such as reducing their ability to play sports or engage in other activities they enjoy. Tell them that nicotine is a drug, and using it can cause cravings and make it hard to stop.
 
Set a Good Example
 
Keep your home smoke free. If you smoke, quit and tell them why you’re quitting. Explain that it’s hard, and if they never start, they’ll never have to struggle with quitting. If you have friends or family who smoke, ask them not to do so in your home, and explain the harms of secondhand smoke to your kids. Share stories of family members who have been harmed by tobacco use.
 
Talk About Tobacco Tactics
 
Tobacco companies need replacement smokers. Tell your kids they’re being targeted. Talk to them about how flavored products and slick marketing campaigns are aimed at tricking them into using tobacco and vaping products. Challenge them to show they’re smarter than the tobacco companies and can’t be manipulated into using tobacco or vaping products.
 
Encourage Them to Be Tobacco-Free Advocates
 
Kids are heavily influenced by their peers. Encourage your kids to participate in tobacco-free programs, activities and organizations.