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Parenting and Smoking

October 17, 2017 by HealthyFamilies BC

Parenting and Smoking

Parenting is hard; it takes a lot to be there emotionally and physically for your child. If you smoke, a common worry is that your child will eventually start smoking themselves. In fact, many parents choose to quit smoking for their children.

Even with great reasons to quit, such as the concern over your child’s future behavior and the desire to be healthy as they grow up, the fact remains that quitting smoking – on top all the other things you have to do – can feel daunting at best.

The good news is that the efforts you make towards quitting can make a difference.  The way you talk about smoking with your child can impact whether or not they ever start. Children whose parents smoke are more likely to become smokers themselves, BUT children whose parents then quit have a reduced risk of ever starting – they have the same likelihood of taking up smoking as children whose parents' have never smoked.

“I’m quitting for my son. I don’t currently smoke a lot, but I want to quit altogether so my son grows up with a healthy role model.” - comment from BC parent,

I'm ready to quit. What do I do?

While some parents are motivated to quit for their children, there are a lot of reasons to quit. If you are ready to quit, increase your odds of quitting for good. Use these free resources available to all British Columbians:

  • QuitNow is a free quit-smoking service funded by the Government of British Columbia, managed by the BC Lung Association. It provides coaching, motivational messaging and information by phone, chat, website and text message. Call 1-877-455-2233 to get started.
  • PharmaCare’s BC Smoking Cessation Program provides a 12 week supply of free Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) or subsidized prescription medications per calendar year to eligible BC residents with Medical Services Plan coverage.
  • Run To Quit can help you quit smoking by teaching you to walk or run 5. They provide both a free do-it-yourself program, as well as a 10-week training program at a limited cost.
  • QuitNow’s online support community can provide emotional support through a community of people who want to quit, are quitting or are looking to stay quit.

How do I keep my child from starting to smoke?

Most people who smoke began before the age of 18, meaning that the best way to prevent your child from becoming a smoker is to teach them not to start from a young age. Youth smoking rates are decreasing in Canada, but many young people still start smoking every year.

Here are some steps that parents can take:

  1. Engage in open conversations with your child. Having age-appropriate and open conversations with your child can help dispel myths they may believe about smoking. By having these conversations at an early age, you create an atmosphere that invites questions and lets your child explore topics relating to smoking. Explain the health impacts of cigarettes, especially those that impact them in the short-term; effects on ability to play sports, appearance and smell. If you smoke, discuss how it’s affected your life and the challenges you’ve face with quitting. You can explain how hard it is to quit, and that you wish you had never started.
  2. Encourage your child’s involvement in physical activities. Sports and recreational activities keep your child busy and away from situations that may lend themselves to smoking. Sports also teach healthy coping skills, a good point to counter the myth that smoking is a way to cope with stress. Try to explain how smoking can make activities like running and swimming harder due to poor lung health.
  3. Eliminate access to cigarettes. According to Health Canada, 72 per cent of Canadian teens have received a cigarette from a family member or friend. Make your home a cigarette-free zone, and encourage any family or friends who smoke to keep their cigarettes and cigarette butts out of sight and out of reach when spending time with your children.
  4. "I have given myself limits over the years, saying 'not right now' or 'maybe tomorrow,' but my son Quentin always asks me why I don't just do it [and quit smoking for good]. It always makes me smile with the realization that I set my own limits." - comment from BC parent,

  5. Educate your child about building a defense against peer pressure. Peer pressure is a normal part of growing up, but can sometimes influence decisions your child might not feel prepared to address, such as pressure to smoke. Some strategies that can help your child navigate these situations are to suggest different ways they can say “no,” role play scenarios with them, encourage a wide social network, and build up your child’s sense of self-esteem. Learn more about strategies to help them manage peer pressure.
Author’s Bio: Today’s blog was written in collaboration with QuitNow team member Carlynn Ferguson-King, with support from Suzanne Gaby and Sharon Hammond, both certified tobacco cessation educators and QuitNow managers. QuitNow is the free, quit-smoking service funded by the Government of British Columbia, managed by the BC Lung Association.

Related blogs

Services to Help You Quit Smoking
How to Talk with your Kids about Smoking

Recommended resources

HealthLink BC: Smoking Fewer Cigarettes
HealthLink BC: Teenage Tobacco Use



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