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How Can I Help My Teen Quit Smoking for Good?

My teenage son quit smoking for a few weeks, but wants to start again. He says he's been under a lot of stress and feels fidgety. How can I help him quit for good?

It's hard to quit smoking. And it’s even tougher to quit abruptly (go "cold turkey"). Nicotine is addicting. It increases the heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure, and makes people feel more alert and in a good mood. But after smoking for a while, people start to depend on nicotine to feel good. If they don’t smoke, they become irritable or anxious or just don’t feel good. This is called nicotine withdrawal. They crave more cigarettes to perk up again. Some experts think the nicotine in tobacco is as addictive as cocaine or heroin.

Your son may be showing signs of withdrawal. Some people need to stop smoking over time and use nicotine replacement products such as nicotine gum or the nicotine patch to avoid unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Nicotine even comes in lozenge, nasal spray, and inhaler forms, so he can try different types. He will need to speak to his doctor about the spray and inhaler, as these need a prescription.

A few weeks after someone quits smoking, they should notice that the physical symptoms ease. But smoking also creates emotional dependence, which needs to be considered too. Tools your son can use to deal with the emotional effects of quitting can include counseling, support groups, self-help materials, and even mobile apps. He also can find more information and support online at:

It's great that your son has wanted to quit — that's the most important step in the process. Keep encouraging him, but know that the decision to quit is his. Even if he smokes again, stay supportive. Congratulate him for his original desire to quit, help him remember why he wanted to kick the habit, and know that it can take many attempts before he succeeds in quitting for good.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date Reviewed: Oct 31, 2023

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