Talk to your kids early and often about smoking. Kids as young as 5 can understand that smoking is bad for them. Multiple conversations from early childhood through high school will reinforce negative attitudes about tobacco [source: Partnership for a Tobacco-Free Maine.
You'll want your message to be age appropriate. Add more statistics and health information as your kids get older, and gauge their understanding to make sure your message is getting across.
When your kids are young, for example, start by comparing smoking to the pollution they see coming from car exhaust. Equate the exhaust polluting the air to cigarette smoke polluting their body.
Your 9-year-old or 10-year-old might be interested in chemistry. Tell your son or daughter about tar, the main cancer-causing element in cigarettes. Explain that nicotine narrows the blood vessels, causing your heart to pump harder. Discuss how carbon monoxide, a waste product of smoking, replaces oxygen in the red blood cells [source: Schwebel].
When your kids turn 11 or 12, compare the thrill of smoking to the excitement of riding a roller coaster. The more a person gets used to smoking, the less of a thrill it is, and the more they'll have to smoke to get the same thrill [source: Schwebel]. Preteens will understand the addictive control cigarettes have and the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms a smoker experiences when they quit, like the shakes, nausea and weight gain.
When your kids are in high school, engage them in dialogue. Listen to their point of view, discuss your feelings and allow disagreement if it occurs.