SmokesNOJoke

Welcome to the parents section of "smoke's no joke". We aim to arm you with all the information you need to tackle family smoking issues.

Parents' questions and answers


How does my smoking affect my child's health?

I started smoking at 15 and I haven't got lung cancer (20yr + smoker)

Isn't it just a teenage phase they all go through? He'll grow out of it.

My wife and I both smoke at home so it's not much different my daughter smoking herself is it?

No one else in our family smokes and she knows about the risks, so why has she started to smoke?

Where does he get his cigarettes from, he's only 14? Will he get into trouble with the Police?

I can't force my son to give up, so how do I persuade him to do it for himself?

Is my smoking more likely to mean that my children will smoke?

My daughter has said that she'll give up if I will. How do I stop?

Where do I start to get advice to support my child?

How does it affect her at school?

My daughter thinks that if she stops, she'll get fat.

My daughter smokes and has just found out she's four months pregnant.

My children are still at primary school, but they know about smoking already. How do I stop them starting?



How does my smoking affect my child's health?

Tobacco smoke contains poisonous gases, tar and thousands of toxic chemicals. Around 60 of these chemicals are known to cause cancer. Children are more sensitive to the effects of these toxins than adults as their bodies are still developing. Smoking affects children in all confined spaces including homes and cars.


85% of cigarette smoke in a room is unfiltered by the cigarette or the smoker's lungs!


Cigarette smoke clings to every surface in a room including soft furnishings, walls, carpets, toys and pets. When young children put things into their mouths (as young children tend to do) they ingest the chemicals as well as breathing it in.


In households where both parents smoke, young children have a 72% greatly increased risk of respiratory illness. It has been estimated that babies living with a 20-a-day smoker will inhale the equivalent of 150 cigarettes in a year.


The incidences of bronchitis, bronchiolitis, pneumonia, ear infection, cardiovascular problems and even behavioural issues have all been linked to parental smoking. Second-hand smoke is an established trigger for the onset of asthma in children.


Children whose parents smoke are also more likely to develop cancer in later life.


Non-smoking women who are exposed to second-hand smoke during pregnancy have a higher risk of miscarriage and are more likely to give birth to a baby who is underdeveloped.


Parental smoking is also one of the risk factors associated with sudden infant death syndrome (cot death).


Children are 7 times more likely to start smoking themselves if they live in a household where at least one parent smokes.


For more information please refer to the Health Issues section

For more information please refer to the Second Hand Smoke section



I started smoking at 15 and I haven't got lung cancer (20yr + smoker)

You are still very young, so it would be rare for you to have developed lung cancer yet.


Lung cancer is the cancer most commonly associated with smoking and the UK's biggest cancer killer. In 2011 lung cancer claimed 30,000 lives of which 80% were attributable to smoking. Unfortunately this figure includes 950 non-smokers who died as a result of exposure to second-hand smoke. Although the risk of dying from lung cancer increases with the number of cigarettes smoked per day, the strongest impact comes from the number of years you have been smoking. Smokers who start when they are young are at an increased risk of developing lung cancer. However studies also show that if people who have been smoking for many years stop, even well into middle age, they avoid most of their subsequent risk of lung cancer.


You can find out more information on the impact of smoking on your health in the 'health issues' section of this site.


For more information please refer to the Health Issues section



Isn't it just a teenage phase they all go through? He'll grow out of it.

Although the phase of needing to conform to his peers may pass, it is likely that by this time he will be addicted to nicotine and this experimentation is an important predictor of future use.


Nicotine is very powerful, particularly in children and it can take just a few cigarettes, or even just regular 'drags' from a cigarette for the body to become dependent. In a short space of time a new smoker needs nicotine to feel normal.


In a survey of young people 66% of smokers aged 11 to 15 reported that they would find it difficult to go without cigarettes for a week, while 79% thought they would find it difficult to quit altogether.


During periods of abstinence, young people experience withdrawal symptoms similar to those experienced by adult smokers.


You may also find it useful to look at other areas of this site. There's guidance on how to talk to your child about smoking, insight into the influence of peer pressure and more detailed information on the effects of nicotine and addiction.


For more information please refer to the Talking About Smoking section

For more information please refer to the Nicotine and Addiction section

For more information please refer to the Peer Pressure section



My wife and I both smoke at home so it's not much different my daughter smoking herself is it?

You're right that your smoking will be affecting your daughter's health; however taking up smoking herself will be even worse for her.


The younger a person starts to smoke, the higher the likelihood of them developing one of the life-threatening smoking related diseases; lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heart disease.


There are several ways in which you can protect her. Obviously by far the best thing you can do is quit smoking yourselves; however you may not want to do this, so you could make your home and car smoke-free. You'll be protecting her from the 4000 chemicals in a cigarette and showing her that you believe that cigarettes are dangerous to health.


You could also talk to her about smoking and why you don't want her to take up the habit.


For more information please refer to the Talking About Smoking section

For more information please refer to the Second Hand Smoke section

For more information please refer to the What's In A Cigarette section

For more information please refer to the Quit Smoking section



No one else in our family smokes and she knows about the risks, so why has she started to smoke?

The top three reasons that young people in a Hull survey gave for taking up smoking are:


  1. All their friends smoke
  2. They think it looks good
  3. They do it to fit in

However, this is just a general summary. The best way to find out is to ask her. Only your daughter knows the reasons for her choice. Have a look at the section on 'talking about smoking' if you need reassurance before tackling this delicate subject.


“It wastes money, you get wrinkles, it's a hassle getting them. It smells. My boyfriend hates it. I'll have horrible teeth, I already have, mine are all yellow and horrible.”

(16 year old female smoker).


For more information please refer to the Talking About Smoking section

For more information please refer to the Peer Pressure section



Where does he get his cigarettes from, he's only 14? Will he get into trouble with the Police?

Young people get cigarettes from a variety of sources. At school, friends will give cigarettes to each other and budding entrepreneurs (children) will sell cigarettes, if this is happening, contact the school and ask if they are aware and what steps are being taken. Some shops will sell to children; if this is the case you should contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111


There are also people who smuggle cigarettes, some of which will also be counterfeit, and sell from their homes or vans on markets. If this is the case you should again contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111


Section 7 Children and Young Persons Act 1933 gives the Police the power to confiscate cigarettes from under age smokers and would probably tell him that he shouldn't be smoking.


For more information please refer to the Tobacco Crime section

For more information please refer to the Tobacco Law section



I can't force my son to give up, so how do I persuade him to do it for himself?

You're right, to be successful, he has to want to quit.


Have a look at 'talking about smoking' and the advice for parents on how to tackle this subject. You could enlist the help of someone else to speak to him, someone he looks up to, a sports coach, or close relative perhaps or someone not too much older than himself who he respects (and you approve of).


If you don't feel that talking will be enough to persuade him, you could use imagery of the real effects of tobacco. Try: ASH


“When I go into town I see these pretty girls or nice boys walking around, and you wouldn't think their smoking, and they spark up a cigarette and it just ruins your image.”

(15 year old female smoker).


For more information please refer to the Talking About Smoking section



Is my smoking more likely to mean that my children will smoke?

The short answer is yes!


All the research shows that children from families where at least one parent smokes are more likely to smoke themselves; they see it as the norm, the thing to do to show you are an adult. However the research also shows that if parents talk to their children about smoking, they are far less likely to start. Parents who smoke have valuable experience of smoking and how difficult it is to quit and are best placed to convince their children why they wished they hadn't started smoking.


For more information please refer to the Talking About Smoking section

For more information please refer to the Quit Smoking section



My daughter has said that she'll give up if I will. How do I stop?

What a good plan, and there has never been a better time to quit. Your local NHS Stop Smoking Service provides free friendly advice and nicotine replacement therapy is available on prescription.


For more information please refer to the Quit Smoking section



Where do I start to get advice to support my child?

You've already made a good start. This site will arm you with information to pass on and give you lots of ideas for supporting your child.


There are areas that are aimed specifically at children, where the information is presented in a child-friendly and age-appropriate way. There's also a section for teachers which contains the same factual information as here on the parents' site, so you know that your children are being given the same messages at school as you will be talking about.


To start with, have a look at 'talking about smoking' and the relevant information sections. Once you're armed with the facts, you could then have a look at the area of the site relevant to your child (you could do this together). If you want to help your child to quit you could also call the local NHS Stop Smoking Service on 0800 915 5959.



How does it affect her at school?

Children who smoke are up to six times more susceptible to coughs and increased phlegm, wheeziness and shortness of breath than those who do not smoke. Consequently, young smokers take more time off school than non-smokers.


Obviously it is against the law to smoke indoors, and it will also be against school rules to smoke both indoors and within school grounds, so detentions and other sanctions may be handed out. If, or rather when, your daughter becomes addicted to cigarettes, she will be focusing on her next opportunity to smoke, which may be affecting her ability to concentrate in class.


“Some people from school did this eight mile jog and I couldn't do it. Every five minutes I'd have to stop and walk for five minutes then go again. I want to be a basketball player and if I'm not fit then I can't do that.”

(13 year old female smoker).


For more information please refer to the Smoking and Young People section



My daughter thinks that if she stops, she'll get fat.

Many people who stop smoking do not gain weight. And of those who do gain some weight, the amounts are small, usually less than 3.5 kilograms. Any gain in weight is mostly due to eating more and not being active. The good news is that you can keep your weight under control while stopping smoking.


The key to weight control is eating a healthy diet and staying active.


What your daughter needs to try to think about is that giving up smoking is the best thing she can do for her future health and her appearance. Smoking has an irreversible aging effect on a person's skin and face that is explained (with graphic images) in the section 'smoking, it's not a pretty sight' which you'll find under 'health issues'.


Being active will help your daughter manage her stress better and will burn up any extra calories. Ideally she should try 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. Activities such as walking, swimming, cycling or dancing are ideal.


Eat three meals a day including breakfast. Limit fatty foods and sweets but include an occasional treat. Increase the amount of fibre and starchy carbohydrates in your diet and have at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.


Keep healthy nibbles chopped up ready in the fridge for when she is temped to eat.


For more advice and information contact the local NHS Stop Smoking Service on 0800 915 5959.


For more information please refer to the Health Issues section



My daughter smokes and has just found out that she's four months pregnant.

Recent research suggests that cigarettes can impede the flow of blood in the placenta, which, in turn restricts the amount of nutrients that reach the foetus. This impacts on the development of vital organs such as the baby's lungs. Underdevelopment is associated with higher risks of death and disease in infancy and early childhood. Stopping smoking at any point during the pregnancy will benefit both the health of the baby and the mother. Taking the baby home to a smoke-free home is one of the best things a parent can do to protect the health of their new-born.


The local NHS Stop Smoking Service has a dedicated specialist to help pregnant ladies and their families quit smoking. It is so important. Call 0800 915 5959 for more details or ask your Midwife or Health Visitor.


You probably both need to read the section on 'smoking, sex and reproduction' under 'health issues'.


For more information please refer to the Health Issues section



My children are still at primary school, but they know about smoking already. How do I stop them starting?

All the research tells us that talking to children and young people about the various issues around smoking is the best deterrent. Making children aware of the impacts of smoking does get the anti-smoking message across at a young age. Use this site to get information on the effects to health, the environment, third world countries and the costs involved.


If you smoke yourself, talk to your children about your life as a smoker, why you wish you hadn't started and how difficult it is to give up once you're addicted to nicotine. Make the point that most people aren't like you, most people don't smoke.


The section 'talking about smoking' will give you some pointers about how to go about this. There's lots of useful information on this site and areas where your children can find out for themselves in an age-appropriate and fun way.


For more information please refer to the Talking About Smoking section


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