Parents and young people

Suggestions for Parents and Other Adults

Researchers[1] have found that parents often doubt or underestimate their influence over their children with regard to smoking – thinking their children won’t listen to them or take their advice, believing instead that others are more likely to have an impact.

However, a number of studies[1], including those where children were asked about their opinions on parents’ influence, showed that parents and other adults do have the ability to support their children to make better choices on smoking. This evidence suggests that children strongly support getting clear messages and examples about smoking prevention.

For parents generally, it might be worth thinking about their parenting style; a permissive environment can lead to children being more likely to experiment with smoking and other drugs, whilst an approach that is considered too punitive or strict, is generally not preferred by children.

The suggestions on this page can support you as parent, or other adult in a child’s life, in talking with them about smoking. There are also useful tips about what you can do to encourage young people to remain smoke-free and to protect them from the harmful effects of tobacco smoking and secondhand smoke.

  • Try to set a healthy example. Ideally, don’t smoke yourself or, if you do, be seen making a real attempt to quit or cut down. Explain how difficult it is for you to quit due to being “hooked” (addicted) any why it’s so important for you to keep trying. Don’t smoke in front of children.
  • Set family rules about smoking and let the children and teenagers know what will happen if the rules are broken. Young people who believe that their parents disapprove of their smoking are less likely to take up smoking.
  • Make your home and car smoke-free and limit smoking to outdoor areas, including for all visitors. Show that you understand the danger that smoking presents to you and your family by avoiding smoking in these enclosed places.
  • Make sure children cannot access your cigarettes.
  • Supervise your children and adolescents; know where they are and who they are with.
  • Set an appropriate amount for pocket money if you give this, to limit the amount children and adolescents could have available to buy cigarettes.
  • Help children and teenagers practise refusal skills so they can put their intentions and plans into action. Try asking them questions such as “What could you say if someone offered you a cigarette and you didn’t want one?”
  • Encourage more healthy alternatives. Get them involved in sport and support other healthy activities.
  • Talk about the dangers of smoking and try to persuade them not to smoke (but don’t lecture them).
  • Talk about the benefits of not smoking.
  • Make sure they know the facts including that most children and teenagers actually do not smoke.

Further Resources:

[1] Scollo, MM and Winstanley, MH. Tobacco in Australia: Facts and issues. Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria; 2016. Available from