Parents and young people

For Parents and Other Adults

Not only are the health effects of tobacco on children – whether direct or indirect through secondhand smoke – extremely damaging and long lasting, the earlier a person begins smoking, the harder it can be for them to quit.

Researchers have found a link between smoking and the brain;[1] those who smoked had less grey matter in their brain (the area that is involved in making decisions) and the longer someone had smoked, the less grey matter that was found there. The person also craved cigarettes more.

It's believed that because younger people’s brains are still under development, taking up smoking during these important years has a far greater effect on the brain’s decision-making abilities which would make quitting cigarettes more difficult later in life. Further studies need to be conducted to test this theory.

Children and teenagers are susceptible to pressure from their friends and what they see in the media and on social media. Often young people want to appear older or feel they fit better into the group. They are also often more curious about the world.

While there is no sure way to prevent all young people from experimenting with tobacco and cigarettes, there are a number of ways that parents and other adults can play an important role. A 2015 review[2] of 27 studies, conducted in the US, Europe, Australia, and India, concluded that the actions taken by families, whether alone or alongside schools and other health programs, were effective in preventing children and adolescents in starting smoking.

This website provides some suggestions to consider, as parents and other adults in children’s and adolescent’s lives, to support them in making better choices about smoking.

[2] Thomas RE, Baker PR, Thomas BC, Lorenzetti DL. Family-based programmes for preventing smoking by children and adolescents. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2015;2:CD004493.