Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death and illness. Quitting smoking can have an enormous impact on a person’s health! This is especially true for young people. About 85 per cent of smokers start before they are 18-years-old.
Educators can help students quit tobacco. This section is full of tips and resources to empower teachers and school staff.
Educators face some common pitfalls when talking to students about tobacco. You should avoid the following:
Suggesting people who smoke are “bad”
Students may have family members and loved ones who smoke. Help students separate their feelings about smoking from feelings about their family. Let them know they can feel negative about smoking AND still feel positive about a family member who smokes. Young people need to know that they can make their own choices.
Excluding students who don’t smoke
Students who don’t smoke can be great supports. Teach them how to support friends and peers to quit tobacco.
Emphasizing only long-term health impacts
Frankly, many students do not care what could happen 30 years from now. It’s better to focus on the immediate consequences, such as:
- stinky breath, hair and clothes;
- yellow teeth and fingers;
- aging skin;
- financial costs;
- increased coughing and lung infections; and
- a decreased performance in sports.
Thinking you’ve failed if a student starts smoking
It can be hard to see a student start smoking, especially if you have tried to teach them about tobacco use and its health effects.
As an educator, you can foster your students’ critical thinking and self-esteem. You can also empower them with the skills, motivation and information they need to make healthy choices. Ultimately, the final decision is theirs to make.
Hiding your habit if you are a tobacco user
Your students can learn from your own experience with tobacco use. If you feel comfortable, you can give honest, first-hand information about tobacco addiction.