View Full Version : Appropriate punishment for a 13-yr old who admits to smoking?

Mr. Blue Sky
04-03-2002, 06:01 PM
My 13-yr-old son (actually, stepson, and, yes, it does matter) was caught with a pack of cigarettes a couple of months ago. He admitted they were his. He had gotten some older guy to buy them (a big thank you, dickhead) for him. My wife only meted out a 2-week "no phone" punishment. I thought it should have more severe, but I let her handle it. Today, he admits that he smoked again. She gives him a 1-week punishment. Taking away the phone seems to be the only punishment that affects him. He couldn't care less about losing TV, videogame, or stereo priveleges.

I'm trying to stay as neutral as I can here for fear of attempting to come between a mother and her son. I love the kid as much as if he were my own, but I don't really think the punsihment is severe enough. I've always believed the punishment should NOT fit the crime, it should deter future reoccurences of the crime.

I try to tell him how stupid smoking is and how his friends are losers for smoking. I try to do this in a way that he doesn't go out and smoke (or worse) out of spite. It doesn't seem to sink in.

If there is a third time (and, unfortunately, I believe there will be), what should I do?

Stripping his room of anything remotely entertaining and open-ended phone restriction WILL be part of it. I am considering the old "let's go visit some people dying og lung cancer" bit.

I would really appreciate some advice here.

World Eater
04-03-2002, 06:07 PM
Yeah I would try the shock therapy angle a bit. Show him some blackened lungs, or someguy with a hole in his throat, and reinforce that you are doing this because you care about him. There should be plenty of resources and pictures on the net to helpl you. Good Luck!

04-03-2002, 06:13 PM
I started smoking when I was 13. Punishment (the ones you and your wife have used) wouldn't have changed a thing.

My recommondations would be:

1. Introduce them to someone (if possible) who smokes a LOT. let them get a good feel for how much it smells on them, etc.

2. LEt them hear from some folks how tough it was to quit. IN fact, have them also call around and find out how much some people end up paying to quit (through various programs and services).

3. under what conditions was he smoking (ie was it parties? in his room? to relieve stress/boredom? 'cause his friends all smoke?) this may help you know what level it is (for me, I smoked alone 'cause I liked it. Yea, I know not common, and it quickly became a big addiction).

4. Have him research data on smoking, risks, comparative to other activities. Research data on second hand smoke etc.

OThers may disagree. I am thankful I haven't had to face this particular one (my son watched his paternal grandfather die by inches from lung cancer, it had a chilling effect on him)

Give him this message from me:

I'm a fairly strong person, very determined etc. I started smoking when I was 13. tried to quit when I was 27, couldn't, went back w/in days. Got pregnant. I knew that smoking would absolutely harm my unborn child, so decided to not smoke while I was pregnant. That's the only reason I quit. That was 18 (almost 19) years ago. I haven't taken it up again for one very, very simple reason:

I never want to go through the hell of quitting again. Never. As much as I loved cigarettes (and I did, from the first), it's not worth the 'quitting'. And everyone has to quit, sooner or later (sometimes they die first).

Manda JO
04-03-2002, 06:17 PM
Open ended punnishments are bad, becasue what the kid hears is "you're punnished until I get over my mad/you manage to whine enough to drive me crazy." It makes the punnishment about what the parent feels--too angry to be decisive--not what the kid did.

I'd make it either a definite amount of time, or until a definite task has been completed--like a five page typed research paper on the dangers of smoking. After he turns in the first one, edit it (there will be errors), and let him have his fun stuff back after he corrects it and turns back in the polished copy (can you tell I'm an English teacher?) Make sure he does a bibliography and all that fun stuff.

Another thing I would sugest is seriously curtailing his income. Smoking is expensive. Next time (if not this time) I'd cut off his allowance, quit paying him for chores, whatever. Make him start packing a lunch, don't give him lunch money (this was my cigarrette money). Stress that it isn't punnishment, it's just that you can't trust him with money. Point out that if this continues to be a problem he won't be allowed to work as a teenager and he will basically be destitute (which he will be anway if he smokes).

Agree to give him some monetary freedom again in six weeks or so, but make it clear that if there are any new signs that he can't be trusted to spend his money wisely, you will cut off his income for even longer, and ever single purchase he makes, down to a candy bar or a coke, will have to be OKed by you and his mom.

04-03-2002, 06:27 PM
is there a program for such kids - what about volunteering at a hospital in the smoking section or some other community service..

Big Kahuna Burger
04-03-2002, 06:41 PM
Don't bother with the taking the kid to the hospital, teens aren't that far-sighted. What you should do is show him the immediate effects of smoking. If he's on any sports show him how smoking wrecks your endurance. If you make him smoke a whole carton he definitely won't want to touch them for a while.

Big Kahuna Burger
Age: 17

04-03-2002, 06:54 PM
Sit with him on a Saturday, and starting right after breakfast, make him smoke. One after the other, no stopping, no letting it burn in the ashtray, just smoke and smoke and smoke and smoke until he vomits.

Then do everything else everyone has recommended.

Nothing you can do is too strong a punishment if it saves him from his own stupid choices.

ex-smoker who wishes someone had done it to me.

Mr. Blue Sky
04-03-2002, 07:19 PM
Thanks for the advie so far.

I thought about the "smoking a whole pack" deal. However, what's to stop him from telling someone and I end in jail on child abuse charges?

If I did do that, however, I would buy the nastiest possible tasting cigarette (any recommendations?) and make him puff

Now my wife, who I love dearly, but her major fault is that she's a pushover, tells me the kid wants a dog. Stunned into silence, I think, "here's a kid who apparently has no regard for his own life and he wants to allowed to be responsible for the life of another living being?"

Last year I posted a thread about how I thought my stepson was heading into the exact same direction as my younger brother (quick recap: 35-yrs-old, on his 4 or 5th marriage (I stopped counting), has 3-6 kids (depending on DNA samples), can't keep a job, car, or a decent place to live, has 4 DUIs, has been in jail at least twice). My mother let him drop out of school in the NINTH GRADE (that's very unlikely to happen since my stepson goes to the school where my teaches, which is also a part of the problem, I think) and basically throw his life away all the time hiding these things from my father. My brother started with smoking and went steadily downhill (drugs, alcohol, etc).

Major reaction to that thread was that I was over-reacting.

I think that taking away he fun stuff and telephone priveleges would a good start. He will learn a valuable lesson in having to deal with the consequences of actions.

I'm afraid, though, it will all end in a messy showdown with my wife.

Of course, I may just be over-reacting, I hope so.

Mr. Blue Sky
04-03-2002, 07:21 PM
Here's that "c" I missed. :rolleyes:

Lynn Bodoni
04-03-2002, 07:22 PM
Another thing I would sugest is seriously curtailing his income. Smoking is expensive. Next time (if not this time) I'd cut off his allowance, quit paying him for chores, whatever. Make him start packing a lunch, don't give him lunch money (this was my cigarrette money). Stress that it isn't punnishment, it's just that you can't trust him with money. Point out that if this continues to be a problem he won't be allowed to work as a teenager and he will basically be destitute (which he will be anway if he smokes).

Have him figure out how much a pack a day will cost him over a month, a year, a decade...then two packs, etc. Good math practice. Ask him about things he wants to buy, and have him figure out how much they'll cost.

And I really second the "curtail his money" idea. If he wants something, you or his mom have to be with him to buy it. Make him pack his lunch. And keep a close eye on money at home, too. Put his allowance or chore payments in the bank, and again, Mom or Stepdad has to physically be there to purchase anything. This has the added benefit of being shameful (being seen in public with the 'rents is SO uncool).

04-03-2002, 08:21 PM
How about pointing out the manipulations the tobacco companies use to get him to smoke? Make him feel like an idiot for buying it? They use the 'rebel' image to their advantage to attract kids who want to be sexy and rebellious. Point out that he is paying them to let him be their slave--and a slave to an enormous capitalist-pig international company, at that. How is it rebellious and cool to do exactly what a bunch of aging white CEOs want him to do?

That kind of thing. I know he's not a girl, but the info on smoking in this book is interesting. deadly Persuasion (http://amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0684865998/qid=1017886643/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/002-2674708-8860031)

Enola Straight
04-03-2002, 08:37 PM
Don't make him smoke a pack...


04-03-2002, 09:40 PM
give him 'hippie hunter' lighters on a windy day.

get a load of cheap lighters with the adjustable flame height. pop the metal guard off, turn it to full, then lift the adjuster so it slips off the screw, move it to the low position and push it up. repeat until you hear hissing then back it off.

when junior comes home with no eyebrows on that breezy day, youll know. I did this to a friend who smoked, he was nervous everytime he asked someone for a light and got that kind of lighter.

04-03-2002, 09:46 PM
Boy, that's a real problem.

I can say that for younger folks, autopsy photos and other gruesome sights are unlikely to have an effect. Unfortunately, kids believe they are invulnerable, bad things always happen to the "other guy."

I would try a positive reinforcement type inducement. Offer a certain amount of money if he agrees to remain tobacco free till he's say, 18. Virtually all the other methods are likely to fail, I'm afraid. Trust, but verify. How you ensure they aren't dipping or smoking on the sly is a tough one, too.

But I'm pretty sure if you make the reward high enough, he might bite.

04-03-2002, 10:48 PM
Give 'im the electric chair!

04-03-2002, 11:05 PM
Some parents do offer sums of money, but the age is usually 21, since almost nobody starts smoking after that.

Then there's that fun, but hard-to-attribute quote:

"We don't smoke the stuff. We reserve that "right" for the young, the poor, the black, and the stupid."
--Former R.J. Reynolds tobacco employee

04-03-2002, 11:58 PM
I hate smoking now.... but when I was his age, I was smoking. I gave it up because i figured it wasn't all that neat ( I did get a buzz) my parents found out, and my dad was mad (ex-smoker) but said he still loved me and was dissapointed. I gave it up about 2 weeks later because it cost too much. Be nice, because knowing me, you will have to save up the big punishments for later on in the teen years :D

Badtz Maru
04-04-2002, 01:41 AM
Originally posted by BigKahunaBurger
Don't bother with the taking the kid to the hospital, teens aren't that far-sighted. What you should do is show him the immediate effects of smoking. If he's on any sports show him how smoking wrecks your endurance. If you make him smoke a whole carton he definitely won't want to touch them for a while.

Big Kahuna Burger
Age: 17

I agree with the idea of making him smoke a lot of them, though a whole carton would probably kill him. Just make him chain smoke about 3 or 4 cigarettes, no breaths of fresh air, just one drag after another. He will feel sick as a dog and there's a good chance it will condition him against smoking - I was learning in psychology class how one of the most effective negative stimuli in classical conditioning is nausea, and I agree - for years I could not bring myself to eat ham because I threw up after eating it once when I was a young child. If you can get him to puke from smoking it will probably make him sick every time he tastes cigarette smoke for years.

04-04-2002, 02:15 AM
My 2 cents :

I agree with Wring in that the punishments wouldn't have worked on me at that age.

However, I also would never have told the truth about smoking. I would've lied through my teeth and never admitted a thing. I think this is important, because it shows a lot about the relationship he has with his parents.

Since I do not believe punishments will achieve anything, I would suggest trying some of the alternative ideas, such as getting him to calculate cost, and getting him to do a bit of biology (so he can break through the "it won't happen to me" thing) and to also talk with some people who are dying from it, and others who found it horrendously hard to quit. If he is money-motivated, that may work, too.

Hopefully that will work. I recently quit (after about 9 years of smoking) and, while I didn't find it hard, I can't believe the difference it made to my body and outlook on life.

What sort of kid is he ? What normally motivates him to do stuff ? Money ? Peer pressure ? Looks ? Think about what motivates him in other situations, and try and apply it to this one.

Good luck with him. Maybe you could show your wife this thread and see what she thinks.

04-04-2002, 03:27 AM
Originally posted by Mr. Blue Sky
If I did do that, however, I would buy the nastiest possible tasting cigarette (any recommendations?) and make him puff

Pall Malls, unfiltered.

One of my role models from my early teens would have been very disappointed in me had he discovered I was a smoker. That almost made me quit. Anybody your kid think is cool that would disapprove of his carcinogenic suicide?

Good luck.

gex gex
04-04-2002, 08:50 AM
god, i'd call the 'smoke the whole pack, son' idea child abuse. are you guys crazy?

and the 'show him the nasty effects of smoking idea' isn't great either. he'll just be bored and think 'yeah, but these people have been smoking for 50 years. i'm just smoking now, not for 50 years'.

teenagers can't picture themselves tomorrow, let alone in 20 years time. i know, i am one.

the stopping the money thing is good, but not a permenant solution.

if he does play sport, play this aspect up. he's more likely to stop smoking if he knows that it's effecting him *now*. sport is one area where the effects are immediatly noticeable.

finally, i guess you may have to accept that he'll do it anyway. it's tough, and it sure won't please you, (it wouldn't please me in your situation), but some kids are just going to keep smoking until they're good and ready to quit. that could be 3 months, 3 years or 30 years.

04-04-2002, 08:56 AM
Lots of good ideas here, I have one more angle to try. He's a 13 year old boy right? So the most important thing to him is GIRLS. Tell him to call up any dating or matchmaking service and see how many women want to date a smoker. A friend of mine who smokes tried a dating service and got 2 matches...normal response is 50-60. And the ONLY difference was because he smoked. Plus all the effects smoking has on his sex life...you probably don't want to think about that but believe me, it's on his mind.
At 13 long-term affects probably won't bother him, but I'm sure he thinks now, as all smokers once did (I started at 16 and just quit about a month ago) that he won't get addicted. But over 90% of smokers do end up addicted.
The money angle is a good one too, kids care about that. I think anything that affects him now is more likely to have an impact .
I would be careful if you make him smoke a whole bunch, there is the possibility of nicotene poisoning, esp. with someone that young.
Good luck!

04-04-2002, 10:50 AM
How much does he smoke? Where does he get his $?

I'm not sure an occasional smoke by a teen is entirely a bad thing. I sure don't consider it healthy, but nor is it a gateway drug.

Regarding the decreased stamina etc., one thing that realy disappointed me when I stopped my 3 ppd habit, was that I did not feel as tho I had any more wind than before. Maybe I did, but I did not perceive it.

I'm not sure what the "right" answer is, but this is what I can imagine myself doing.

I would stop giving the kid any money, either for allowance, chores, lunch, etc. I also would probably prohibit him from working for others for $, or would insist that it all go to a bank account. I would present it as a matter of responsibility, and not wanting my $ to go towards tobacco.

I would consider having him empty his pockets and backpack every time he entered the house. Smell his fingers and breath - that sort of thing. This I would present as a matter of trust. He betrayed it, and if I can't trust my kids - "my house, my rules!"

Talk to his friends, their parents, teachers, etc. Find out how common smoking is in his crowd. See if a united front is possible. If he hangs with the crowd who are "the smokers," consider what you can do to discourage that.

More constructively, tho, I'd try a more positive approach. We have told our kids that if they don't smoke, do drugs, drink, or get pregnant or married before they turn 21, we'll buy them cars. Maybe we'll just encourage them to be secretive about such things!

Hopefully I won't have to address this for a while. Last night we watched TV and one of those "Ask your kid about drugs" ads came on. So I asked my 14 year old "Do you do drugs or do you know anyone who does?" She said yes, she knows one girl who smokes. Maybe she was lying, but I don't think so.

04-04-2002, 11:07 AM
There's some REALLY good ideas here. I suggest combining most of them.

1. I like the "make him smoke a bunch of them" idea. But buy the good stuff. You don't want to have him justify smoking again by saying that only the cheap stuff will make him sick.

2. Call up the dating service. Pull out the singles ads and point out all the "N/S" entries.

3. Take him to the hospital. Show him the black lungs. Talk to ex-smokers.

4. POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT! Tell him if he quits for good, in 6 months he gets that dog. If he smokes just once after that, the dog is being sent to cousin Gary.

You need to show him exactly how serious you are, and the reasons you are serious (smoking is bad, you love him, smoking is unhealthy, smoking is dangerous, you love him).

The fact is, to a 13 year old, smoking IS cool. Actually, to a 20 year old, smoking is cool. But you have to prove to him that it is also stupid.

Helen's Eidolon
04-04-2002, 11:26 AM
I'm not a parent, nor an authority figure of any kind. But here are my two cents:

Don't punish him by taking away priviledges. That makes it a me vs. them thing, it's an arbitrary punishment. I doubt it'll actually affect his attitude towards smoking, unless it makes him think that smoking makes him even more of a rebel than he already is.

I like the ideas of making the cigarettes the enemy, not you. The smoking a whole lot would work, but yes, it is slightly abusive. However, if it does work, it's totally for his own good, and the health benefits from never smoking again would totally outweigh the disadvantages from smoking so much at a time.

The calculations and research paper sound good, but also a little bizarre and cheesy. He might just take it as a "stupid parent" thing.

04-04-2002, 11:45 AM
I would suggest you don't make him smoke an entire carton. I have tried cigarettes exactly once, and I absolutely loved it. I crave them all the time....and I only had 1! Two years ago! I carton will probably make him sick....but also form a pretty wicked addiction.

I'd cut off the money, but if he's getting cigarettes from his friends, that may work.

04-04-2002, 01:20 PM
Well, Mr. Blue, this might not work for you, and it could well backfire on you, but my first thought was:

Take him jogging.

Go on a 5-mile run. Then do it again tomorrow night. And the next. And the next. You'll both get a lot of exercise, you'll get to spend some quality time together, and he'll get a positive example of what his lungs can and cannot do for him, depending on how much he smokes.

Manda JO
04-04-2002, 01:43 PM
ont think you might point out to your wife:

This needs a different type of punnishment than whatever you normally do (phone privledges) because it is a different type[b/] of misbehavoir, not justa different [b]degree of behavoir. You want it clear in his head and your own that this is not in the same catagory as missing curfew or lying about whose house he is going over to or not doing his homework or getting into a fight. This is risking his life.

If the punnishment for smoking is the same as the punnishment for these lesser things, he is not going to understand how serious smoking is--he'll lump it in with all those othrr things as something parents have an unreasonable hang-up about.

I want to strongly suggest that you follow wring's suggestions about the money. COntrol all of his funds, and while he may still bum the occasional cigarette off his friends, it won't be many, if for no other reason than that they wil quickly realize he isn't going to be able to recipocate. PLus, the ight of you having to walk up to the marquee and buy his movie ticket, and then hand it to him before driving away is going to sting.

04-04-2002, 02:03 PM
Concerning the "carrot" system, one possible result is having the kid do whatever he does in moderation. While I would prefer my kid not smoke, do drugs, have sex, etc., if they were to do so occasionally it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. At the very least, I hope they learn to do so responsibly. Don't smoke so that it becomes a habit, don't drink or do drugs and drive, don't have unprotected sex, etc.

So even if the kid sneaks a cig once in a while, he won't be doing it regularly such that he might be seen and ruin his chance at the reward.

It is really tough being a parent and trying to tell your kid not to do a bunch of things you did (or wanted to do) at their age.

04-04-2002, 02:42 PM
Originally posted by Dinsdale
Concerning the "carrot" system, one possible result is having the kid do whatever he does in moderation. While I would prefer my kid not smoke, do drugs, have sex, etc., if they were to do so occasionally it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. At the very least, I hope they learn to do so responsibly. Don't smoke so that it becomes a habit, don't drink or do drugs and drive, don't have unprotected sex, etc.

I'm sorry, but that's the worst advice I've ever heard. If a 13 year old kid occassionally smokes, he's not at risk?!? You've got to be kidding me. Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances we put in our bodies. One cigarette is capable of creating an addiction. Occassional cigarettes is not an acceptable alternative, especially for someone so young. While he may have every intention of not smoking enough to become a habit, I doubt any smoker in existence today began with the intention of becoming an addicted smoker. I also doubt that there is any significant population of people who occassionally smoked without becoming addicted.

04-04-2002, 03:02 PM
Figured I'd get a reaction like yours, Munch. IMO you are over-reacting somewhat. Further, you are suggesting a world of brightlines that is unlike the one I live in.

Fine, if that works for you and your kids (sorry if I missed it, but how many do you have and what are their ages?)

I have all kinds of hopes and dreams for my kids, and strong ideas of what I tink is right or wrong. And while I will definitely do my darndest to steer them in what I consider the right direction, I have no illusion that they will turn out exactly how I imagine. Nor do I want that to happen.

I have no difficulty thinking of a heck of a lot of things my kids could do that would bother me much more and that are a heck of a lot less reversible than trying an occasional cigarette.

Mr. Blue Sky
04-04-2002, 08:25 PM
I am grateful for the advice. Hopefully, I won't have to use any of it. I found out today, though, that his half-brother has been smoking, too. They're about the same age. In fact, they've been smoking together.


His father and step-mother smoke, but have promised to try and stop doing it in front of them.

I like the idea of money control. I figure that I would let him have money, but require him to present a receipt for whatever he buys. In other words, he'll have to account for every penny. That way, he won't have the opportunity to buy the smokes, well, get someone to buy them for him, AND it might just help him with his math (sneaky, eh?).

04-04-2002, 09:14 PM
Don't punish him at all. Let him smoke, but dont' buy his cigarettes for him.

If he's smart, he'll quit before he hurts himself. If he's weak/stupid, he'll wake up 50 years old with emphysema and a really bad chronic hacking cough. That'll teach him.

04-04-2002, 11:05 PM
I'm in a twisted variation of your situation: I think (though I'm not sure) that my best friend has started smoking again. I don't live in the same town because of school, and only see her a couple of times a year, so the evidence is slim, but when we used to go to school together, I was always the most adamant about not smoking, and she knew it. A few times in the past year, though, she has talked about smoking at parties or whatnot, when she's been drinking or when too many other people are smoking around her. She blames is on her "addictive personallity", which I think is bullshit, because when you KNOW something's going to tempt you into doing something you don't want to do, you avoid the situation, right? And she's a psychology major. Go figure. :rolleyes: Even her admitting that much, though, had to be dragged otu of her, which makes me think she's been smoking much more often than she says.

But anyways, I know how annoying it is to see someone begin this horrible habit, and then not be able to figure out how to prevent it or get them to stop. It used to be that my getting mad at her for it was enough to prevent her from doing it, but I don't think I really have that influence anymore, since I'm not there all the time.

Sorry this is a bit of a hijack, but I just felt like mentionning this, since it seemed like a place to get this off my mind. I hope you can find a way to help your stepson see that it's just not worth it. I agree that the money angle is probably the best - if he can't afford them, and he's ALWAYS bumming off others, he's going to lose his smoker "friends" of his, and maybe fall in with a better gang. Or, at least, he just won't smoke when he's with them.

04-05-2002, 04:19 AM
I began smoking at the age of 12. My mother tried to cut off my cash supply to keep me from buying cigarettes. Unfortunately, I was a conniving and manipulating child. The night after I was told that I wasn't going to get money from her, I headed for her purse and helped myself. I hate to rag on my mom, but she must have been really dense. She didn't notice for a few weeks. When she finally confronted me, I lied to her face. I knew exactly what strings to pull to make her feel guilty for accusing me. If you're going to use that idea, watch your pocketbook. If the kid ends up stealing from you, I suggest pressing criminal charges against him. I know I wouldn't have stolen from my mom again if something drastic had been done.
Are you friends with any police officers? Maybe you could have him arrested for smoking. I got 3 smoking tickets before I turned 18. For the first two, I was fined $300 combined. Then smoking became a more serious issue in that area, so my 3rd got me a year of probation and 30 days in juvie. (I didn't have to serve them, though; I was this close to graduating high school, so the judge said something about suspended sentence, bla bla bla.) I was in shock by that point... jailtime for smoking?! Admittedly, I haven't quit, but if my parents had pushed harder, I might not have continued smoking.

04-05-2002, 05:16 AM
Make a deal with the kid--find out how much he smokes, then tell him if he will save the money he spends on cigarettes, you will match it. Show him how compound interest works and talk about the really cool car/motorcycle he can buy when he is old enough. Explain to him that it is really dificult to take a girl out on a cigarette pack, but a car is ideal for the purpose. Ordering a kid that age not to smoke and punishing him when he does is counterproductive, or at least it was for me.

04-05-2002, 06:18 AM
I have to say that rewarding the kid for not smoking probably isn't a good idea. At least it would have backfired with me. I'd think that if I do something stupid and get caught, I'll get money or some other reward for not doing it again. What a sweet deal. Hmm, maybe next time I'll see what I can get for smoking pot.

I do agree with making the kid smoke the rest of the pack of cigs right in front of you, one after another. When I was 13 I got extremely sick from chewing tobacco. To make a long story short, I swallowed more than I was supposed to and was throwing up for hours. That was my first and last experience with chew. I never want to feel that way again.

Manda JO
04-05-2002, 07:38 AM
I like the idea of money control. I figure that I would let him have money, but require him to present a receipt for whatever he buys. In other words, he'll have to account for every penny. That way, he won't have the opportunity to buy the smokes, well, get someone to buy them for him, AND it might just help him with his math (sneaky, eh?).

I would have this be the second phase, like after two or three weeks of you physically spending all of his money for him. Why? Because it's a pain in the butt for you, and he needs to see that his not smoking is important enough for you that you are willing to do all this to make sure he is supervised properly. Furthermore, the embarressment of having you do these things is a big part of the problem.

On a side note, you've made it sound like there is a lot of tension about htis between you and your wife. Might I suggest that you show her the pictures of the blackened lungs and the tales of quarts of pus having to be scrapped out of them? It occurs to me that she may be thinking of trying out cigarettes as a boys-will-be-boys thing, and hasn't actually thought about her baby dying a pinful death. Furthermore, this will show her that
you are more scared than angry. I suspect that whenever you are angry at he boy, your wife feels guilty: after all, it's her son who is making you unhappy, and this puts her in a terrible position. The obvious (and wrong) solution to this is to try and convince you that you shouldn't be angry, that it isn't really a big deal. By approaching the issue as you being scared for the boy, it becomes an emotion she can share with you, not an icky emotion that she caused and has to fix.

Mr. Blue Sky
04-05-2002, 07:50 AM
I could probably find a police officer to help, but if the kid gets fined $300, who do you think is going to have to pay the fine?

My wife knows the dangers of smoking. Her mother smoked from the time she woke up, literally, until she went to bed. She died of cancer. She told the boy that and it didn't phase him one bit. He definitely feels guilty about smoking, but not enough to stop, apparently.

If the problem gets worse, he'll end up having to stay with his father for a while. His father promises it won't be a trip to Sunnybrook Farm. This is a rare occasion where my wife and her ex agree on something.

The fact that he TRIED smoking is not a big deal. I may have taken one puff of a cigarette when I was his age. That was more than enough. I'm not completely out of it. I know kids are curious and like to experiment with things they aren't supposed to do. Unfortunately, some people are more prone to addiction than others.

04-05-2002, 08:10 AM
I agree with those who have already put forth the idea of making the kid smoke cig after cig until he pukes. Then make him smoke some more, until he gags up long ropes of spit. Then make him smoke another. (Don't start with a pack though. Get a whole carton.) The "child abuse" accusation is strictly for the faint of heart. I don't think there are very many judges who would throw the book at you for trying this ancient, time-honored method of avoidance therapy. And using money and promises are only making the situation worse.

I smoked like a crematorium for about 10 years before I decided to quit. Would that I had never picked up that filthy habit! I don't even WANT to know how much money I threw down that toilet. Smoking sucks, smokers are suckers.

PS I would not trust the father and stepmom to not smoke in the kid's presence, as they say they will. After a short interim they will find their promise to be inconvenient to THEM, and so go back to smoking wherever and whenever the hell they feel like it. That's what smokers do.

04-05-2002, 08:38 AM
My sister and I lost both parents to smoking-related disease; neither of us has ever smoked (actually, that's not true - aged 4 I tried emulating Mum when she went out of the room and promptly puked my guts up over rich friend's carpet; another story).

She's got two teenaged kids who are pretty much as influenced by peer pressure as anyone else.

She's also on-the-ball. If one of her kids started smoking, she'd -know-.

She has promised them both that if they've not smoked by aged 18 she'll give each of them 1000 pounds (about 1500 dollars).

Both kids are smart enough to realise this is a fair wad of money, and are both sticking to it. The fact that the elder (16) already does a once-a-week dishwashing job is giving him a very healthy respect for money, both from the perspective of wasting it on cancer-sticks and the fact that in under 2 yrs he gets a wodge of it.

Wouldn't work for all kids, I suspect, but certainly seems to be working for these two.

Rally Vincent
04-05-2002, 12:55 PM
For what it's worth:

Peers are the biggest influence on whether or not kids smoke, but interestingly, the second biggest influence is.......movies. Kids see movies where the characters smoke and it looks cool and you don't see any consequences for the behavior.

Leaving that aside, here's another couple of thoughts:

whatever actions you choose to take, I think it's in your best interests to make sure it's something both you AND your wife enthusiastically agree on. Kids are adept at sensing ambivalence. As well, it may be best for your wife (his mother) to dole out the consequences.

Another thing to consider is for you and your wife to sit down with him and just ask him what he finds intriguing about smoking and listen without judgment or comment. "Seek first to understand, then be understood." Is it boredom, experimentation, trying to fit in, something that looks cool or knows it might drive his parents nuts?

Listening to him doesn't condone the behavior, but it may give you useful information about the context he is in.

04-05-2002, 03:47 PM
Originally posted by Mephisto

Pall Malls, unfiltered.

One of my role models from my early teens would have been very disappointed in me had he discovered I was a smoker. That almost made me quit. Anybody your kid think is cool that would disapprove of his carcinogenic suicide?

Good luck.

That is a good point. Young teens often have much more fear/respect for certain other people than they do for their parents. What will probably work is not punishment but shame. I would have an adult that you stepson respects pull them off to the side and give them a shame thrashing. Heavy emphasis of "you are better than that" and "you are better than those other boys" might do the trick. The adult could be clergy, a teacher, a coach, etc.

04-05-2002, 04:06 PM
"Kissing a smoker is like licking an ashtray....."

I do know social only smokers. They never smoke, then you go out with them for happy hour, and they bum a smoke to go with their beer.

I also know two guys who are smokers who started in their 20s.

So there are no rules, only generalities.

Good luck.

(I'm fondest of the cutting of the money route. At 13, the only place he's getting it is from you).

04-05-2002, 05:57 PM
Some people seem to be suffering from a misconception that teenagers are incapable of long-range thinking. Bullshit. Your kid is going to have to make decisions about things like smoking, drinking, and other activities on his own at some point. You might be able to control those decisions for him now, when he is 13, but what about when he is 16? 18? 22? ...

It is very important that he be equipped to make these decisions with solid reasons, because as he grows older, he will come to rely less on what you have said and more on what he himself can see. Fortunately, it should not be hard for him to see reasons why smoking is unhealthy. I think the idea of a well-researched paper is excellent, because it will present him with those reasons (and whatever counter-reasons there may be), and because it will be he who is discovering the reasons on his own and for himself, not you shoving them down his throat.

Things like punishing him and taking away his money attack the short-term problem but do nothing in the long term. For example, as a high school junior, with no job and no car, I would have no problem going out every Friday and Saturday night and getting drunk and smoking. A lack of money or transportation or whatever is not a problem if you have friends. This is why I said that you might be able to control his smoking now, when he is 13, but even at that age, it is likely that he can still find a way to circumvent all your preventative measures. That type of security through obscurity is fundamentally flawed and is always weak and subject to failure. Education with the goal of preparing him to make an informed decision is a much better option.

If all your attempts at education fail, then you can resort to strictly punishing him, but quite frankly you probably will just end up with a continuing problem. This is not to say that I don't think punishment has its place, just that I think first doing your best to make sure your son understands why smoking is bad is a much more important and more powerful step, and will alleviate the need for ongoing punishment if it is successful.

I don't necessarily agree with an argument from economics, because while smoking is expensive, so are many other activities. He may not be dissuaded just because something is expensive, especially if he finds he really likes it. It can't hurt to throw it out there, but I wouldn't make it a main focus: the main focus should be his health and how he will be affected physically by continued smoking. I also really don't buy the idea of rewarding him for not smoking. Excuse me? Since when were you supposed to be rewarded for doing what is expected of you and what is good for you? I think that is a bad idea and can set a bad precedent in other aspects of his life. Furthermore, you really shouldn't underestimate his ability to do things without your knowledge: you're not going to be there to hold his hand in every situation where he'll have to make this type of decision, but the education you give him always will be there. If his only motivation is getting some sort of reward, he is being driven by the wrong desires, and won't make decisions on a foundation anywhere near as sound as a solid education.

That's my general advice, as a high school junior who can still remember pretty vividly the age of 13 and the 3 years that follow it.

Silver Fire
04-05-2002, 06:34 PM
I think I was pretty close to this kid's age when my parents caught me, my sister, and my brother smoking. At the time, my dad smoked Camel Straights (no filter). They thought that they'd make us all sit down and chain smoke my dad's cigs. None of us actually got sick, but we all must have come pretty close (I know I did) because we begged my parents to let us stop. The next day we were all hanging out in the waaaaaaaay backyard, smoking and laughing about the previous day's events.

"Dude, I almost puked!" "Me too!!" "Wow, I can't believe they actually MADE us smoke..." etc.

As I type this, I'm smoking a Camel Light. My sister smokes Marlboro Light 100s, and my brother smokes Marlboro Reds. So I guess it didn't work then. :(

Good luck to you.

Mr. Blue Sky
04-05-2002, 06:51 PM
It's always good to get lots of different viewpoints on a touchy subject like this.

I'm sure that there's the possibilty that whatever punishment I mete out will be largely forgotten or absorbed, I feel that I must do something if nothing more than to show him who's "boss" :rolleyes:.

I hope it shows him that I DO care about him and his health and future. I'm afraid it'll turn into a no-win situation, but I'd rather him hate me and be healthy.

04-05-2002, 07:05 PM
Punishment may help, but I do not believe that it will solve your problem. If he is continuing to smoke at this point, he probably has some sort of addiction. Punishment is not going to get rid of that addiction, just teach him how to hide it.

Taking away money is a good idea, although he may still be able to get cigs from his friends or willing adults. Also, you mentioned that he was smoking with his half brother who's parents smoke, which means that he could get the money from his half brother or steal the cigs from the parents. He's 13, so he can be creative if he has to, the thing is to make it as hard as possible for him to get them, and kick the habit at the same time.

My friend has smoked since the 6th grade, even tried to stop several times for money reasons. The punishments that his parents gave him when they found out (which was rarely, he hid it well) did not effect him, he was already addicted, and besides his friends were doing it too. Now at 16, he is trying to quit smoking once again, but its hard for him. Gum, rubber bands, even patches (if he's old enough, I don't know if there is an age restriction or not) can help your step-son knock the habit in the butt. The only problem here is that he would have to want to quit, which can be done by showing him the ill-effects of tobacco and the cost.

Also, what are his grades like in school? Is he independent or does he need to feel like part of the group? Are the people he hangs out with into smoking, drinking, etc? Find out all these things, peer pressure can be hard when your trying to stay with a crowd, if he's hanging out with the wrong group he could find himself in more trouble than just smoking cigs.

Mr. Blue Sky
04-05-2002, 07:20 PM
He's doing ok in school, but I don't think Harvard will be calling any time soon. I know that sounds cruel, but I am a realist. The biggest problem (and I guess I should have mentioned this before) is that he is much more physically mature than the majority of boys his age at school. He' 5'8" and lanky. He's got acne (and not the good kind, the kind that can scar if not treated properly (and we are)). Like many boys his age, he thinks he's the baddest mo-fo around. In reality, he's just a wannabe (like most boys his age). He complains that the other 13-yr-olds only want to talk about "baby stuff" like Dragonball Z.

He has mentioned that he wants to change schools. He currently attends the private school where his mother teaches. Having your mom teach at your school is like having a cop or preacher as a parent. The rebellion is a given. Right now, he's a big fish in a very little pond. He would not last a week in a public school. He would be quick to mouth to the wrong person and get the crap beaten out of him. Of course, you couldn't convince HIM of that.

04-05-2002, 07:44 PM
. POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT! Tell him if he quits for good, in 6 months he gets that dog. If he smokes just once after that, the dog is being sent to cousin Gary

The dog is totally innocent. Don't give the dog away because a kid makes a bad decision!!!!

My advice would be to talk with him and figure out why he is smoking. He may not even know, so you may have to help him understand his motives...they may be subconscious. This would be very important info. Once you get that information, you could work on a strategy for dealing with this.

04-05-2002, 10:01 PM
Well you could sit down and watch the movie Dead Again.


It's a really cool noirish thriller with Ken Brannagh and Emma Thompson and Robin Williams has a bit part.

Ken's character is trying to quit smoking through the film. He finally does when he visits a very old Andy Garcia who talks with one of those boxes and then actually smokes through the hole in his throat. It made Ken quit on the spot.

04-05-2002, 11:42 PM
Big professional secret here, don't pass it around:

You need to find out why he smokes. You need to ask him in a manner that will be safe for him to tell you the truth. Then you need to listen with 150% effort to what he is saying. Not talk, but listen respectfully to what he says. Remember it. Sit down, think about what he has said, and come up with some ideas. This is a good way to handle lots of problems.

Now for speculating. I think kids do this because they want respect from their peers and to rebel against authority. Part of the solution might be to try to interest him in the swim or track team. This gets him away from people who smoke, as swimmers or runners can't compete and smoke. Next is to treat him as a human being. As difficult as it may be to respectfully listen to him talking about N'Sync or such other uninteresting garbage, listen without getting into the "in my day we listened to..." stuff.

gex gex
04-06-2002, 10:28 AM
posted by sdp
Some people seem to be suffering from a misconception that teenagers are incapable of long-range thinking.

i have three major assessments due in the next week. (18 year old first year i am). have i started them? no.

teenagers are incapable of long-range thinking.

04-06-2002, 02:12 PM
Originally posted by gex gex

i have three major assessments due in the next week. (18 year old first year i am). have i started them? no.

teenagers are incapable of long-range thinking.
No, you are incapable of long-range thinking. Other teenagers, however, are perfectly capable of it. I happen to fall into the latter category, as do many of us. Don't generalize for a whole group because of your own personal situation.

Rally Vincent
04-06-2002, 05:10 PM
I want to reiterate what I and others have said about sitting down and listening to him talk about why he smokes.

Feeling as though you don't belong can be an extreme motivator at that age. The problem is, smoking is the sort of behavior that is very hard to stop even if the reasons for having started no longer exist.

I think that's why a number of people have said that listening to him nonjudgmentally before meting out any punishment might be a good idea. By the way - if he comes up with a solution himself, go for it. If he knows of something that will help this situation, it's worth a try.

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