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Staying Safe Around Others

Smoking, E-Cigs & Vaping

There is so much information about the serious damage that smoking tobacco does to our health. It is very addictive and once started, it is hard to stop. There are a lot of reasons why people start smoking. We do know that those who struggle to stop smoking as adults will often tell you they had their first cigarette when they were very young; either in late childhood or early teens.

An E-cig or Vape is an electronic device – they heat a liquid (vape -juice) until it produces an aerosol gas, that looks like smoke. Users breathe this into their lungs. The vape ‘juices’ usually contain nicotine, chemicals  and ‘flavourings’.

Dive Deeper

E-Cigs & Vaping

In recent years vaping has become more common. Some people have used these methods to break a smoking habit. There is still a lot of confusion about whether these products are safe or not.

  • Because Tobacco is very dangerous 'stop smoking' services say that these products are safer to use in comparison to continuing to smoke. It is important to remember this advice is when compared to smoking tobacco which Cancer Research UK say is the biggest cause of preventable deaths in the world!
  • Some experts are worried that vaping could encourage children and young people to move onto using tobacco – so far there is no proof this is true.
  • Many vaping ‘juices’ still contain nicotine which is addictive and so it can be hard to stop using these products once you start.
  • Nicotine is harmful to teenage brain development that continues until the mid twenties.

The best advice, for young, growing bodies is not to use these products at all. There is not yet much information on what the long term effects of using vapes will be – so this means young people really should avoid them.

Other Things To Be Aware Of

The safety regulations of these products are not yet as tight as for tobacco products, so it is harder to be sure of what they contain and their safety.

Some recharging equipment for vapes have been found to be a fire risk -  it is important to be aware of this danger and to use with care.

It is better to go to a specialist local shop than to buy from the internet to be more certain of their safety.

Peer Pressure

The move up to secondary school is often the first time that your child is meeting people who you do not know anything about. The schools are bigger, and cover a wider area than primary schools. Your child will have to make decisions about who is good to spend time with, and who they should avoid. Peer pressure can become a real issue, and your child may be pressured to join in with things that you, and they, know are not good for them. 

Helping your child feel strong enough to say no to offers of cigarettes is an important first step to a smoke free, healthy life. There are ways that you can increase your child’s chances of making good decisions and not becoming a smoker.

  • Make your home a smoke free zone.
  • Don’t smoke yourself – being a good role model really helps – children of non-smokers are less likely to smoke.
  • If you do smoke seek advice and help to stop - and talk to your child about this.
  • Start conversations when your child is small about why smoking is risky and hard to stop.
  • Give your child all the facts on why smoking is dangerous.
  • Get your child involved in healthy activities – when lives are full and active they are less likely to start smoking.

Prepare your child for what their friends might say to tempt them ‘just one won’t hurt’ or ‘smoking is nice when you get used to it’ as well as telling them they will be ‘cool’ or ‘look grown up’.

  • Practice with them what they might say back to people who want to persuade them to try smoking or vaping.
  • Young people struggle to believe they will ever get ill – but they are keen not to have smelly breath and clothes, or have to spend all their money on a bad habit.
  • Avoid giving ‘don’t smoke or else’ threats – adolescent brains are pre-programmed to push against hard rules  - and your child may do it anyway, but not feel able to talk to you about it.
  • Keep talking about the pressures and choices they face – show them you understand it is hard.

My Child Is Smoking or Vaping

If you find out your child is smoking you may struggle with a lot of emotions. You may feel angry and disappointed. You will feel worried about their health. It can feel like you have failed as a parent. It may come as a shock, and feel upsetting for you. It is important to know that you can still help your child to stop smoking and there is information and services to support with this.                                               

If possible when you find out take a little time to let it sink in before you talk about it with your child – this way you will have time to calm down and think about how you want to help them. Maybe you found out and reacted in the moment – perhaps you were angry. Don't worry, take some time to calm yourself and decide what you want to do next.

You can say sorry to your child about losing your temper and explain that you felt shocked and worried, but now you want to see how they feel, and think together about what to do next.

Find time when you and your child are both calm to talk this through;

    • Ask your child how they came to start and how they feel about it – listen to their explanation.
    • Ask what they feel is positive for them about smoking and what they think is the downside.
    • Have some facts to hand and ask your child if you can talk about what you have discovered. 
    • They may think vaping is not harmful – whilst you can agree it is less dangerous than smoking tobacco - you can explain that does not make it a safe choice.

My Child Wants To Stop Smoking

Praise them for making a good decision for a healthy future. Seek help whilst they are positive about quitting - stopping smoking with expert help is 4 times more likely to work than trying alone.

  • Help them choose a ‘quit date’ - the day they decide to start their smoke free future. Get rid of all smoking equipment on that day.
  • Get them to think about the times and activities they are most likely to smoke. Work out together how they can change daily habits to avoid the tempting moments. Help them keep busy.
  • Help them practice how they will turn down cigarettes like ‘I am saving up for the new X-box game’ or  ‘I am fed up of my teeth going yellow - so I’ve given up’. Remind them to avoid having even ‘just one puff’ as this will keep the cravings going longer.
  • Encourage them at hard times – remind them how far they’ve come and how it will get better every day. Make allowances if they are irritable and grumpy – stopping is not easy.
  • Get in healthy snacks for when cravings are tough.

If they have a slip up – reassure them that it does not mean they have failed. Help workout why it happened and carry on. Help them think about how they will reward themselves for their determination. You may want to reward their efforts too!

Your child needs to want to stop. This is really hard for parents because no one can make someone stop smoking until they decide to for themselves. If your child says they do not want to stop – explain you will continue to talk to them about this because you are so worried.

  • Remind them it is illegal to smoke before you are 18.
  • Explain to your child that this may be their decision - but your decision is not to make it easy for them. Be clear that there will be no smoking in or around your home.
  • You may decide to stop pocket money if you cannot be sure it won’t be spent on tobacco. You may decide that they will have packed lunches rather than give them lunch money. Find out where they are getting tobacco from – if it is being sold illegally contact 101 the non-emergency police number.
  • Keep raising the subject calmly – allow your child to talk about their feelings. Let them know they have your support at anytime when they decide they are ready to stop.
  • Let your child’s school know – they may be able to tackle this as a school community.

Are there other people in your family, and friend group that your child might find it easier to listen to? Sometimes it is hard for teens to listen to parent’s advice – even when they know they are right!

Who can Help?

Smokefree Norfolk offer advice and support for stopping smoking. 

You can contact a member of the 0-19 Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.

Qwell provides free, safe and anonymous mental wellbeing support for adults in Norfolk and Waveney from a professional team of qualified counsellors. Alternatively you can go to see your GP to discuss concerns.

For 11–25 year olds Kooth is a free, confidential and safe way to receive online counselling, advice and emotional well-being support. 

To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum below.

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