Stop Smoking in Teens Before It Starts

Preventing smoking in teens and children and helping them quit smoking are possible

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Smoking is linked to many more health problems than bad breath and lung cancer. The key to preventing the health issues is to prevent children and teens from starting to smoke in the first place.

A recent report by the US Preventive Services Task Force found that several efforts can be effective in preventing teens and children from starting to smoke.

These efforts include having primary care doctors and parents talk to kids about the dangers of smoking.

Both intensive anti-smoking programs and simple educational materials sent home or given to families can help reduce the risk of smoking among children and teens. Other interventions, such as cell phone reminders and increasing the price of tobacco, can help encourage teens to quit smoking.

"Teach your kids the dangers of smoking."

The report was issued by the US Preventive Services Task Force, led by Virginia A. Moyer, MD, MPH.

The US Preventive Services Task Force is an independent group that reviews all the evidence for particular prevention activities for certain diseases or behaviors.

In this report, they found relatively strong evidence to support the value of primary care doctors talking to school-aged children and teens about the harms of smoking.

They also reviewed the effectiveness of other programs that could reduce the risk of teens starting to smoke.

Approximately 8.2 percent of middle school students and 23.9 percent of high school students reported currently using any tobacco products in a 2009 survey.

The report notes that the strongest factor linked to children and teens starting to smoke is having a parent who smokes or has another form of nicotine dependence.

Other factors that can increase the risk that a teen will start smoking is low amount of parental supervision, having easy access to cigarettes, believing that their peers smoke and being exposed to tobacco advertising.

The types of interventions that can help prevent teens from smoking varied considerably.

Some were very intensive, involving families participating in multiple sessions that involved using workbooks for two months.

Others involved simply mailing materials to children's homes and providing parents with information packets on talking to their children about the harms of smoking.

The task force found less evidence about what works to help teens stop smoking once they have started. Some of the interventions that had moderate success involved community or school programs with behavioral counseling that helped teens quit.

No medications approved by the FDA are currently available to help children or teens quit smoking.

The task force made four major recommendations regarding approaches that could help prevent children and teens from smoking or helping them quit.

The first was the use of mobile phone-based interventions that can help teens quit smoking, especially if it is combined with patient education materials.

The task force also wrote that there is strong evidence to support the effectiveness of increasing the price of tobacco products for preventing smoking and encouraging children and teens to quit smoking.

Third, the task force found strong evidence that mass media campaigns can reduce tobacco use in teens, especially when combined with increases in tobacco product prices and school and/or community programs.

Finally, the task force found evidence supporting the effectiveness of community efforts to help reduce the use of tobacco among teens and children.

These kinds of efforts could include "...stronger local laws directed at retailers, active enforcement of retailer sales laws and retailer education with reinforcement," the report noted.

The only possible harm identified by the task force that could result from smoking prevention interventions is that the child or teen decides to smoke anyway.

The report was published August 26 in the journal Pediatrics. It was also published August 27 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The US Preventive Services Task Force is an independent, volunteer group supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

No disclosures were reported.

Review Date: 
August 26, 2013
Last Updated:
August 26, 2013