On the third Thursday of every November, smokers around the nation come together to take part in the American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout. This event challenges smokers to quit using tobacco products and provides them with resources to stay away. Tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the world, which is why the Great American Smokeout remains an important event.

Tobacco is hard to quit, so it is crucial to start talking to your kids now to prevent them from using tobacco products in the future. Finding the right time to begin the conversation may be difficult, but there are many things parents can do to help teach the dangers of smoking to children.

Start the Conversation Early

It’s never too early to start talking about tobacco with your kids. It is recommended to first mention tobacco use around age 5 or 6 and continue the dialogue throughout their high school years. This can be beneficial because many kids start using tobacco products by the age of 11, and even worse, many become addicted by the age of 14. By starting an open dialogue early and often, you can make a big impact on the decisions they make later in life.

Use the Facts

Many kids start smoking because it seems like the cool thing to do, but are not aware of the harmful effects that come along with tobacco use. It is your job to point out the negative health effects to your children, which include bad breath, yellow teeth, smelly clothes, coughing, and decreased athletic performance, along with life-threatening illnesses.

It is no secret that smoking has serious long-term risks like cancer, but it is important to relay this message to your children. It is estimated that smoking causes 32% of all cancer deaths in the U.S., including 73% of lung cancer deaths in men and 76% of lung cancer deaths in women. If you know someone that has been affected with a tobacco-related illness, you should mention this to your child while having the conversation to give them a real example.

Set Household Rules

Be clear with your child that there will be consequences if they are found smoking or using tobacco products. Taking away privileges, like using their electronics or going to friends’ houses, can be a way to show them how serious of an issue this is.

While it’s important to have rules, when your child asks about tobacco, the most important thing to keep in mind is to be open and honest about the topic. You are the greatest influence in your child’s life, so what your child learns from you can point them in the right direction to permanently avoid smoking.