Home page Psychology blog Child and Adolescent Behavior Bad Habits Prevention “I was just standing next to them”: what to do if your child smokes?

“I was just standing next to them”: what to do if your child smokes?

08.05.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

“I was just standing next to them”: what to do if your child smokes?

“I never thought it would happen in my family, but the fact remains that my teenage son started smoking. My wife and I are in complete shock, nothing foreshadowed such a turn of events. We as well as our friends and relatives do not smoke. We have always brought up our son in strictness, instilled love for a healthy lifestyle. It seemed to us that he shared our values: he is fond of swimming and even takes prizes in competitions, his friends are from good families; he is a good student and is seriously thinking where to enroll and what profession to choose. Yes, he has some teenage quirks, but everyone has them, and in general he is a very positive boy. And then he started smoking out of nowhere. We are confused and do not understand what to do if a teenager smokes.”

— Yuriy, father of 14-year-old Roma

Children’s and adolescent smoking is a real problem for parents not only because cigarettes themselves pose a danger to the child’s health. First of all, smoking means that the child has some problems in life: he is involved with some bad people, he does not know how to say no or he tries to solve his internal conflicts with cigarettes.

If previously only boys started smoking before they were of age, now teenage girls smoke just as much. Moreover, this is not only a problem for parents of teenagers: unfortunately, now 11-year-olds and even 10-year-olds smoke. Either way, it’s an important signal. The problem needs to be addressed immediately, until smoking became addiction. In this article, we will explain why children and adolescents start smoking, what to do if a child smokes, and how to cultivate a negative attitude to cigarettes.


  1. Why children start smoking
  2. How can you tell if a child smokes
  3. Harm of childhood and adolescent smoking
  4. What to do if your child smokes?
  5. The 7Spsy behavior modification technique is the solution to the problem

Why children start smoking

As much as some parents want to believe that cigarettes can just appear in the child’s life out of nowhere, psychologists claim the opposite. Smoking in childhood and adolescence does not occur just because; there are always prerequisites for such behavior. Let’s consider most common causes of smoking:

  1. Parent example. They are the main authority for children. Therefore, if father regularly smokes ten cigarettes a day and mother silently encourages his addiction, do not be surprised that the child will want to join the family life in this way. Even if you carefully tried to hide the fact of smoking, the child will notice, because children notice everything.
  2. The desire to seem like an adult. The logic of children is very simple: if adults smoke, then I, to become an adult, also need to start smoking. Sometimes the desire to please the opposite sex and look cooler in the eyes of others also plays a role.
  3. The desire to blend in with the crowd. This is especially important for teenagers, for whom acceptance by the society is the basic need. Therefore, if your child’s friends smoke, this habit will most likely not bypass him. Besides, there is a widespread stereotype in our society that cigarettes promote communication, and it can also influence the teenager’s behavior.
  4. Imitation of idols. Trying to find themselves, children and teenagers often imitate favorite actors, singers or just popular people. However, as is typical of their age, they imitate not their creativity or other achievements, but what is easier to achieve. For example, the choice of clothing or smoking.
  5. The inability to say no. Your child may not have planned to start smoking, and he has never liked the smell of cigarette smoke. But if he is easily persuaded and does not know how to say no, it would be easy to tempt him to the “dark side.”
  6. Curiosity. Sometimes children start smoking just out of interest; they are curious what other people find in cigarettes and why they are forbidden. The child may not like it at first, but the desire to “try” a cigarette sometimes wins.
  7. Internal problems. Smoking can be a manifestation of a number of internal conflicts and problems in the family, be a form of protest or a cry for help: that’s how children could try to draw the attention of parents or cope with stress (especially if the family is used to smoking as a way to relieve stress).

We will help you to give up smoking

Make for consultation WATCH VIDEO

How can you tell if a child smokes?

Even if you generally have a good relationship with your child, it is unlikely that he/she will tell you directly that he has started smoking. So you’re going to have to play Sherlock Holmes and gather evidence to start a conversation about smoking with your child. Let’s talk about some of the signs that are worth paying attention to. [1] 

The smell of smoke

This is the surest way to determine whether a child smokes. The smell of cigarette smoke is very persistent, so pay attention to the clothes, especially the outer one, breath and the smell of hair. The child may say that he was just standing next to smoking friends, but if you pick up the smell every time for a long time, do not believe such excuses.


The cough of smokers is very specific, it is dry and sounds hard. If you start to notice that the child is constantly coughing, but there are no other symptoms of a cold, it may be a sign of addiction to cigarettes.

External changes

The skin immediately reacts to nicotine: it becomes dry, gets an earthy shade, there may be rashes and cracks on the lips. Also, pay attention to the color of teeth and nails —they turn yellow from smoking quite quickly.

Behavioral changes

Has the child become restless? Does he constantly asks to go outside to “walk with a friend”, and these walks last only a few minutes? Did he start chewing gum with a sharp aroma or zealously monitoring hygiene? Does he shy away from hugs and conversations alone with you? All these may me the signs of smoking.

Suspicious spending

It is worth paying attention to what the child spends pocket money on. Analyze his spending, find out how much lunches cost in the school canteen. If a child spends money on cigarettes, he will regularly spend about the same amount. He may also start asking for more money without explaining the reason.

Harm of childhood and adolescent smoking

harm of teenage smoking

Smoking children and adolescents must know the consequences of their bad habits. It is parents who should talk about the dangers of smoking. Here are the diseases and ailments posing danger to smokers, and especially children:

  • depression and stress,
  • nasty temper;
  • memory and concentration deterioration, resulting in lower school performance,
  • early hypertension (heart attack) and other heart problems,
  • insomnia,
  • epileptic seizure,
  • weak immunity,
  • skin and teeth deterioration,
  • deterioration of bones and joints, slowing growth,
  • decreased visual acuity,
  • tuberculosis,
  • shortness of breath, asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, and lung cancer,
  • allergy,
  • infertility in girls, impotence in boys.

It should be understood that smoking affects children or adolescents more strongly than adults, and the consequences can occur much earlier. Finally, if a child already has any chronic disease or predisposition to it, smoking will affect his active development.

It is important to understand how exactly cigarettes work, and for this we propose to study the table, which describes the effect of harmful components on the body: [2]

Dangerous substancesDanger to the bodyDiseases caused
ResinsContains carcinogen and substances that irritate the tissues of bronchus and lungs.Lung cancer, oral and larynx cancer, chronic bronchitis and persistent cough
NicotineIt is a narcotic substance and causes addictionIncreases heart rate and blood pressure. Causes physical dependence and withdrawal syndrome
Toxic gases (carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, nitrogen oxide, etc.)Carbon monoxide is the main poisonous component of tobacco smokeIt damages hemoglobin: making it lose the ability to carry oxygen. The result is chronic oxygen starvation

What to do if your child started smoking?

teenager started smoking

Of course, it is easier to prevent any problems than to solve them. Alas, this is not always possible: prohibitions, preventive conversations and personal example sometimes do not help. Let’s figure out how to break the smoking habit in a child or a teenager.

What not to do

Most often, parents, learning about their child smoking, react sharply. They scold and accuse the child, deprive him of pocket money, forbid to communicate with friends and initiate “home arrest.” However, this only reinforces the desire to rebel in a teenager, and smoking of course represents a form of rebellion. Such methods will not solve the problem, but your relationship with the child will be damaged and trust will be lost. [3]

More humane methods are needed to combat child smoking, but if you continue to smoke, heart-to-heart conversations may be powerless. The child simply won’t believe your exhortations about the dangers of smoking, because he will see a living example, and if you try to appeal in a conversation to his age the child will want to prove his adulthood in all possible ways.

Do not try to intimidate the child, because fear is not the best motivation. Instead, tell him in a reasoned way about the dangers of smoking and allow to make a choice on his own.

In the fight against child smoking, you should also overcome your addiction. You can even invite the child to unite and do it together.

Tips: How to help your child quit smoking?

But still how to get a child to quit smoking? Let’s talk about several working methods of combating children’s smoking, which are recommended by psychologists:

  1. Talk heart to heart. It is very important to make it clear to the child that you still love him, accept him and are ready to help him to get rid of this bad habit. Tell him/her about your feelings: how his behavior upsets you, how the smell of cigarette smoke makes you sick. You can share your experiences and tell how to quit smoking: a teenager will be interested in your story and such a story will be useful.
  2. Tell him what happens to children who smoke and people in principle. Explain that the consequences are much greater than what is written on cigarette packages, and many of them are already visible in a child right now. It is also worth it to share your own experience: how cigarettes have undermined your health and how you suffer from something you can’t quit. Be sure to mention the dangers of passive smoking: it also destroys the body but more slowly.
  3. Try to understand why the child started smoking, what psychological problems he is trying to solve. Discuss with him what else he can try to deal with this issue. For instance, if he needs to win the respect of his peers, it can be done through achievements in sports or creativity. Even teenage rebellion can be implemented in more peaceful ways, such as starting a blog and writing about everything that bothers him. Do not neglect the help of psychologists, since this is a more effective way not only to fight smoking, but also to solve internal problems. Remember that your child needs your support during this period. [4]

The 7Spsy behavior modification technique is the solution to the problem.

So you’ve found out that your child started smoking: what can you do? The main task of parents is to prevent one-time smoking from becoming an addiction. The best way to deal with the problem is at the very beginning. However, it is possible to overcome the addiction to cigarettes at any stage. It is important to instill in a child or adolescent a negative attitude to smoking, so that he/she would never try to look for a solution to his/her problems in a cigarette again.

We will help you to give up smoking

Make for consultation WATCH VIDEO

The 7Spsy behavior modification technique is geared towards this. This is a patented behavior psychology technique based on the theories of I.P. Pavlov, B.F. Skinner, A.A. Ukhtomsky and others. This method helps to identify the attitudes that led to destructive behavior patterns, and change them to positive ones.

The 7Spsy behavior modification classes take place remotely with children from 7 years old, take 2 to 6 weeks, and start with the diagnosis of the problem. Throughout the course, a professional psychologist will support you and your child. You will be able to contact the psychologist in online chat, by e-mail or phone.

As a result, your child will be freed from addiction to cigarettes and will learn to say “no” to the bad habit, regardless of the opinions of friends.


  1. Kak uznat, chto rebenok kurit? Likbez dlya roditelej (http://zdravo.by/article/5457/kak-uznat’-chto-rebenok-kurit-likbez-dlya-roditeley)
  2. Y. P. Podolyan, Tematicheskoe i pourochnoe planirovanie po OBZH
  3. Tatyana Chernyak, «Esli rebyonok nachal kurit» (https://www.ya-roditel.ru/parents/base/lecture/esli-rebenok-nachal-kurit/)
  4. Kurite, ignorirujte, rugajtes. Chego ne nuzhno delat, esli rebyonok kurit (https://mel.fm/blog/lomonosovets-uchenik/85496-kurite-ignoriruyte-rugaytes-chego-ne-nuzhno-delat-esli-rebenok-kurit)