Tips for Keeping Your Teen Smoke-Free

Top 4 Reasons Why Teens Girls Smoke

Teenage girl next to friend offering cigarette
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Parents can sometimes feel powerless against the tough pressures their teenage girl faces. Some of this powerlessness stems from the fact that parents cannot make their teen's choices for them and must trust that their teen will make the best choice. While it is true that teens need to make their own choices, parents do have more influence than they think. Understanding why your teen girl might start smoking can be the first step to keeping your teen smoke-free.

The Truth About Teen Smoking 

The truth is that anyone's teen can start smoking. Every day in the United States, more than 3,000 young people become new, regular smokers. That means that more than 1 million teens and young adults become new smokers every year. This statistic doesn't have to include your teen, but the reality is that your teen is regularly faced with many of the same influences from glamorous advertising to their peers.

According to the American Lung Association, teen girls begin smoking for these reasons:

  • to avoid gaining weight as smoking cigarettes can sedate hunger;
  • to feel more independent and mature;
  • to help relieve anxiety or stress;
  • or because of peer pressure, especially for boyfriends.

Let's take a look at these reasons one at a time.

Avoiding Weight Gain

First, smoking can help a person avoid gaining weight. But there are much healthier ways to do that. Good nutrition and exercise come to mind.

If you think your teen started smoking because they are worried about weight gain and are having body image problems, start looking into some teen wellness ideas and activities like community sports and healthy snacks.

The Desire for More Independence

Teens want the freedom of being older without the responsibilities.

For some teens, smoking does this. While parents know that this does not make their teen more independent or mature, their teenager perceives that it does and that's all it really takes. If your teen is feeling the need to be more independent and mature, maybe it's time to talk about having more freedom and accepting more responsibilities. Give your teen more privileges by showing them how to earn them. Getting more freedom often makes a teen feel and act independent - a win-win situation.

Need for Stress Relief

Some teen girls feel smoking is the answer to their anxiety or stress. These girls use smoking as a way calm down and relax. While that may be true in the short term, there have been studies that suggest smoking actually causes depression and anxiety.

Jeffrey G. Johnson, PhD, of Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute developed a study of nearly 700 young adults between ages 16 and 22. The study noted that teens who smoked at least one pack of cigarettes a day were 15 times as likely to develop panic disorders, five times more likely to develop generalized anxiety disorder, characterized by feelings of apprehension and breathing difficulties and seven times more likely to develop agoraphobia, an incapacitating fear of open spaces' during early adulthood when compared with nonsmokers.

So, if your teenage daughter smoking because she said it relaxes her, it's time to talk to her about healthy ways to relax. Exercise, being proactive and organize, healthy eating and getting enough sleep are all ways to avoid stress. Model these good behaviors for your teen and get active together.

While it won't be easy to keep your teen daughter from becoming addicted to smoking once she has started, I urge parents to try to the best of their ability. It can take awhile for a smoker to quit, but the benefits start happening right after that last cigarette. So keep trying.

Peer Pressure

As for peer pressure, that's everywhere in a teen's world. Dealing with peers can be tough but it's not impossible. First you have to be proactive and encourage your teen to have positive friendships - a.k.a. with teens who do not smoke. But, should you teen's friends smoke that doesn't mean that they have to as well.

Teen girls who want to impress the boy that smokes will try smoking. The best way to handle this situation talk to your teen often about the dangers of smoking and set up some logical consequences for the behavior. The hardest part of this will be catching your daughter if she is smoking as she will smell like smoke when coming home from a date with this particular boyfriend.

Keeping Your Teen Smoke Free

While it won't be easy to keep your teen daughter from becoming addicted to smoking once she has started, I urge parents to try to the best of their ability. It can take awhile for a smoker to quit, but the benefits start happening right after that last cigarette. So keep trying.

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