“Why do you smoke?”

Posted by
Smoking Knee - JK
I’m assuming that the cultural shift away from smoking is also happening across the US, but here in Australia smokers are the new pariahs.

I, like most people, know the risks and dangers associated with smoking. We should — we hear them often enough. So when a kid, who are often present at adult parties, asks me “Why do you smoke?” it becomes difficult to answer.

The honest, and simple, answer is “because I enjoy it.” But it’s not something I want to say to impressionable children. The last thing I want is for them to be attracted to it as well.

Any ideas on getting around the minefield of choosing to smoke (especially around kids) in a predominately non-smoking society? -Jess

Any smokers in the house have good go-to answers for this kind of situation? (Reminder: keep things respectful in the comments. Sometimes smokers gotta smoke — no judgies.)

Comments on “Why do you smoke?”

  1. As most people you must know as well the risk of second hand smoker, therefore, your best choice is just not to smoke in front of children. For respect to the clean air that they deserve and to avoid yourself a difficult question to answer.

    • The problem is that smokers smell smokey even when they’re not actually smoking, so people can still totally tell a smoker from a non-smoker. Also, kids especially pick up on little things like “going for a quick walk” means leaving to smoke, or having cigarettes in a purse, or a lighter on hand at all times, or stuff like that (perceptive little buggers, kids are). So even if the person is responsible enough not to smoke around anyone else, I am certain they will still get questioned.

      • I definitely do not smoke indoors with kids (or indoors at all).
        But they are curious and they do either follow or watch you through windows lol.

  2. I dont think there is anything inherently wrong with choosing to be a smoker- in fact, I used to be one until I had children. However, I think if you choose to smoke around children you have to accept the judgement and possible consequences of such a choice, because ultimately, smoking exposes other people to harm. Other parents might not like it, and where I live, it’s enough to risk social services knocking on your door if you smoke in the house with children.

    As for talking to kids about it, I agree that stating you enjoy it is quite a leading and potential influential answer. I try to be as honest as possible with my kids, but sometimes it’s easier just to say half of it. If they ever asked why I did, I would likely say ‘because I am addicted’- being honest but not condoning the choice.

  3. I recently switched to vaporizers over cigarettes, but when I smoked, my response was usually something like “I made a stupid decision in college and now I’m addicted and I haven’t been able to quit yet. Don’t ever start smoking.” Adjusted as necessary for age of asker.

  4. I’m
    Australian and a smoker so I know what you mean. I try not
    To smoke in the presence of children and have never encountered this question personally but I imagine if I do I would say, and quote honestly too, that I don’t know but I wish I never started.

  5. My own children would sometimes ask me this, and ask their grandmother who was also a smoker, up until a year ago when I finally managed to quit. I just told them that I started when I was young, that it was a very poor decision on my part, and that it’s incredibly hard to quit. I likened it to trying to give up their favorite candy or video game, to help them understand. This seemed to satisfy their curiosity but also lets them know it’s a not a path they should ever choose to follow.

  6. I tend to be more on the level (I always smoke outside and as far away from kids as possible, but it comes up) with kids. “Because I am addicted” and let the conversation go from there. With adults, I tend to get snarkier: “Because I like hearing about all of the dangers of smoking.”

  7. I’m not sure smoking because you enjoy it is a good enough reason. I gave up last year at the age of 32, granted I wanted o have a baby so had a good reason but giving up ultimately came about because I started to think what a selfish, stupid and stubborn thing I was doing. I’d always said ‘I enjoy it’ and felt that that was a justification, but I realise now I was just hanging onto a bit of teenage rebellion. I know this sounds stupid but I started actually thinking about the warnings on the packets and reflecting on it. It suddenly seemed childish and stupid to be actively doing something that would hurt me and others around me.
    As for smoking around children there is no etiquette for this. Smoking kills other people and you exhale carbon monoxide and retain traces on your clothes and skin for around four hours after a cigarette. There is no defence, none, for inflicting that on a defenceless, non consensual child. If you want to smoke go and do it alone because that is the safest way to do it for the rest of society! I’d like to think some parents would call you on it- even as a recent ex smoker when my little bundle arrives in September I will be extremely rude to people who want to smoke in our vicinity, and I’ve already asked people to move away as I’m pregnant.

    • Again, let’s try to remember that even if someone only smokes in their own home and no one ever has to deal with it, they will still get questioned about it. Let’s try to assume that people are being responsible and not smoking near children (or anyone, even!) and address the question she asked.

      I agree that often it’s good to really take a good look at why you’re doing something and frequently determine whether you really want to continue it or not.

  8. i’m pretty keen on being honest with kids, but i also appreciate not encouraging anyone to smoke. i think if “don’t; it’s horrible and addictive” isn’t true for you, your best middle ground is to try and avoid by saying something like “lots of reasons, it’s kind of complicated.” my experience is that that’s enough of an answer for most kids to feel acknowledged and they’ll drop it and move on.

    if they are old enough to be persistent (excepting toddlers in the “why?” phase, who don’t count!) they are probably old enough to hear your honesty (and you can temper it with “that’s just how i feel, and a lot of people who smoke feel differently” or something if you are worried about being too encouraging).

  9. This question reminds me of part of Ariel’s Festivals blog a couple weeks back. Nicotine is a drug and, at times, smoking makes social gatherings less enjoyable. I think using the same sort of “let’s walk through why you shouldn’t” talk is just as good for the non-smoking as the smoking.

    I am quit (for hopefully the sticking time) and, while I never got asked this question by a child, I did have some idea as to how I would have answered it. Primarily, I would talk about how it was a crutch for me — ease anxiety, easy out of an awkward or uncomfortable situation — and also talk about how there were other ways I could do it that would more productive. And I would also tell them that I had tried to stop many times and couldn’t because I was addicted, which makes the anxiety worse because of the way the brain works. Honest, covers the bases and can be scaled up or down depending on the age.

    I also want to take a moment and express my shock at how many people have already commented disparagingly on smoking. Yes, it sucks. Yes, it damages health. Yes, it can impact those around you. But it is an addiction like any other. Would you say these things to an alcoholic? If you wouldn’t, I think you may need to step back and evaluate your reactions here.

    Do I want people to smoke? No. But, is it a legal substance and you have to have an ungodly amount of self-control, desire and willpower to quit. Empathy and support goes a long way in helping someone kick any addiction. I’m a bit shocked at the guilt/shame thing going on here.

    • Wow, everything about your answer is great — thank you! I love the idea of talking to kids early about coping skills and how there’s good ones and bad ones. Such a smart approach.

      And yes re: addiction. My parent and grandparents smoked, and as a kid I would get so furious because they *knew* it was horrible and did it anyway. Only now that I’m older can I see it for the complicated relationship with addiction that it is.

    • I have severe asthma and, apparently, a bad allergy to cigarette smoke. Smoking isn’t just a personal choice, the way drinking alcohol is (assuming you don’t drive). Most of us have had to walk through a cloud of smokers, to get into a building, or follow a smoker down a street. And while that’s merely unpleasant and only a little toxic for some people, it’s immediately dangerous for me.

      I’ve had smoker friends leave the room to smoke outdoors, and when they came back, I had to excuse myself to use my inhaler, just because of the amount that lingered on their clothes, skin, and hair.

      So, no, it isn’t the same as alcohol.

      • Yeah, I have a very mild allergy to cigarette smoke. I kind of feel like smoking should NOT be legal, and I am loving that there are many bars and restaurants that I can actually go to now because there’s a smoking ban. I have often had to wait to leave work because people were gathered outside smoking and I didn’t want to hold my breath as I walked by. 🙁

        I could also never borrow my friend’s clothes because her parents smoked (never in the house! but it still permeated everything) and the smell on her clothes would make me sick.

        Anyway, things that affect people are worse than things that don’t, but at the same time people ignoring the question and just going off on the poster does not benefit this discussion at all.

      • I didn’t say that smoking = drinking.

        I’m saying it’s an addiction.

        So, someone who would feel so compelled as to smoke with other people around are similar to alcoholics in that they are addicted to a legal substance available to those of a certain age.

        That was my equivalency, if I was unclear.

        I’m sorry that you have this severe reaction to smoke, but that doesn’t change that the people you’re judging probably don’t want to give you an asthma attack in the first place, but are struggling to quit a substance their brains literally crave.

        I was also reacting to my own feeling this I didn’t think this was an appropriate way to rampage against the harm of smoking. At this point, we all know what those risks and harms are. Reinforcing them again, and ignoring the topic of how to address it with a child, who presumably knows but doesn’t understand why someone would hurt themselves like that, is the crux of the post.

        The OP said they enjoyed it and don’t intend to quit. That is his/her choice and, at the end of the day, being lectured isn’t going to change that opinion. Just like with any addiction, legal or not, the first step in quitting is acknowledging that you want to do it. The OP isn’t there.

        • Thank you! I Was trying to put my finger on what about this post was bothering me, and I couldn’t, but you just did it beautifully.

          The question is “How do I talk to a child.” Not, “What do you think of my smoking?”

          To address the question, I think honesty is the best policy. Children are always trying to learn so teach them something….

          • Except that the poster is specifically asking about smoking *around* children – something which is never acceptable.

      • This. I do not ever condone the “choice” to smoke. It might be your choice to poison your body, but it is my deity-given RIGHT to breathe clean air, which I NEED to LIVE. You are deliberately taking away that right when you choose to smoke. Not even just by going outside or for a break, but you are actively making the air worse for all the people around you who are trying to breathe.

        Alcohol only hurts others when people make stupid choices (drinking and driving, etc). It’s your liver and it won’t affect me what you do to it. But the instant you start polluting the air around you, you are directly affecting the lives and well-being of others, including children, asthmatics, seniors, EVERYONE. There is no situation in which I would ever excuse someone’s choice to smoke as anything less than a terrible and selfish idea, and I honestly can’t possibly comprehend why it’s still legal after all these years, or why anyone would even start in the first place to lead to the addiction aspect.

        • I have to point out, as it seems you’re not relating with the issue of addiction, you’ve likely never been close to anyone who has had any kind of addiction. If you did, for one, you’d know someone with alcoholism will most likely disrupt the life of his loved ones, and yes, physically too. And it can be really scarring. Imagine seeing your parent drink every day to behave erratically, piss themselves in public, and beating up your siblings and yourself for no good reason. And then grow up to try to find it in you not to hold a grudge. Alcoholism is NOT just getting drunk.

    • While I agree that empathy and support are helpful to anyone trying to overcome an addiction, perhaps shame may be an effective deterrent to someone who thinks it is ok/normal to smoke around kids as the post states.

      • “It’s appropriate to shame this person because it’s a deterrent” doesn’t feel like a very Offbeat attitude. I’ve seen people use that same argument towards people who are obese, but I thought this community was generally better than to fall into the belief that you should shame people for making personal choices you disagree with. Shame rarely ever works as a deterrent.

      • I know this is old, but just to clarify:
        Its not like I seek out kids to smoke around.
        In my culture kids are a part of life. They are usually present at the parties I go to, which include intoxicated adults, smoking and swearing. They are almost always outside.
        I grew up this way, and loved it. They get to hang out with all the other kids and run amuck.
        If I am having an adult conversion with a group of smokers and kids come into that circle I will blow the smoke away from them, but I will not leave. I will encourage them to leave. If its me they want to talk to I will tell them Ill come and find them shortly.
        I know that in many places kids are not generally part of social gatherings, but that’s not at all normal here, so yes, kids do see adults smoking. Do I think that’s somehow shameful? No. Certainly no more shameful than them seeing you have a glass of wine.
        Many of the suggestions here have been great. Thanks so much.
        I was disappointed in some of the judgemental comments, but I’m pretty sure thats because we are coming from different backgrounds and my original post didnt layout enough information. I knew it would be a controversial post, so I certainly wasnt suprised.
        Thanks again to those who gave some insight or advice. You rock.

        ps. 2 months smoke free (i think I had to wait for all shaming to stop before i quit – stupid I know, but had to be MY choice)

  10. Hmmm …that’s fine the OP “enjoys it” however I can’t see how this is celebrating “offbeat”.

    I see smoking more as an addiction more than a positive lifestyle choice. Sorry.

    There is a reason it is becoming socially unacceptable. Basically smoking around others (including kids) isn’t really respectful of others’ rights to breath clean air.

    • Why must “offbeat” mean “positive lifestyle choice” for everyone? Offbeat means different things to different people, as does “positive lifestyle choice” or even “lifestyle choice.” I think a key part of being offbeat is that each person gets to decide stuff for themselves.

        • You are making the assumption that the poster smokes in public. It may be that she does, but I don’t think this is a good place to warn people about smoking. It sounds like they already know all the bad things.

          She asked a question of this community because she knows we tend to accept stuff, whether we agree or not, and will answer thoughtfully and helpfully. I am pretty ashamed of us that it’s become “HOW CAN YOU SMOKE AROUND KIDS” when that’s not what she said she was doing, and her question is legit. Yes, I think she should quit, but I am NOT going to post that here, I am going to try to answer her question and make the BETTER assumption (one that she definitely enforces) that she already knows the downsides of smoking.

          • “Any ideas on getting around the minefield of choosing to smoke (especially around kids)” certainly makes it sound as though the OP does smoke around others including kids.

          • L, the double-whammy was unintentional, and given how many extra hours of comment moderation Megan (the site’s Managing Editor) had to do this week, I’m guessing it’s a miscalculation she won’t make again.

            There’s a reason Offbeat Families stopped publishing posts in 2013…

          • yeah I figured she would be working hard… This thread didn’t take off like the last though so there is a blessing.

      • Yes but as long as you aren’t impacting others. Smoking is not that. Even outside and coming back (you still stink) Referring back to The OP’s original question …clearly she acknowledges that it is impacting others… hence her question.

      • Trystan – You can be as offbeat as you want as per whatever definition you want. Just don’t have your lifestyle physically impact anyone else if they don’t chose it themselves (included the extra tax dollars they pay into health care for smoking related illnesses and extra work time due to smokers breaks. Smokers take on average 2 additional weeks a year “breaks” not working than non-smokers and more sick days).

        • Let’s not start with the ‘healthcare tax dollars’ argument. The same thing is too often used to shame fat people, alcoholics, and self-harmers/attempted suicides. Of course, it could equally apply to people who choose to drive cars or participate in extreme sports, and the fact that it isn’t routinely brought up in discussion of those things indicates just how far it has become a tool for the privileged to critique the lifestyles of the less fortunate.

    • I think smoking is disgusting, I am allergic to the smoke, I have trouble breathing every time I go to an Australian shopping centre and have to walk through the crowd of smokers standing the minimum 4 metres from the entrance. But none of that matters here. It’s offbeat because the OP can actually ask that question, not many places would allow it. Offbeat does not mean wearing hand knitted bikinis and only eating quinoa with tofu.

      I agree with the others that the OP should stick with the it’s an addiction line, you could maybe throw in something about how it wasn’t considered as bad when you started smoking as it is now, or even delve right into the history of smoking and how it was encouraged as a good thing before people knew it was bad for you. It’s an interesting conversation and if the kid is a little bit older (over 6ish kinda age) then they can understand and have quite in-depth conversations so it could be a really good conversation to have. You can talk about all sorts of addictions. You might like smoking but I think it’s best just to keep that out of the conversation.

      As for smoking, well I personally think there should be a rolling ban on it to phase it out. Anyone under 18 cannot and never will be able to buy smokes. Just set a DOB year and let it keep moving up so next year nobody under 19, eventually in 50 years only people over 68 will be able to buy smokes. Smoking is the biggest cause of cancer in the modern world.

  11. Smokers are a real part of life. I don’t think kids should be forced to be around smokers, but the information that some adults choose to smoke shouldn’t be kept hush-hush, either. I personally think it’s an important facet of the “why you shouldn’t smoke” education from parents to their kids. It’s important to understand and explain why someone might start and continue smoking because it’s a question children will have, and they might not ever ask YOU (apparently, they’re asking our OP! 🙂 ) The answer is a complicated one and it’s a discussion that you should revisit as kids get closer to the age when cigarettes might be part of their social circle.
    I feel like the safe answer for OP to kids is, “It’s a choice some adults make, but do you think it’s a very smart one?” I don’t feel like it’s your job to inform kids on the finer points of the smoking debate, but it’s good to talk to kids, right?

  12. I think what’s of interest is here is what do you do when a child who is not your own asks you a question and you know your answer conflicts with their parents’ point of view. It’s not just limited to smoking — the child could also ask “Why don’t you believe in God? Are you going to hell?”.

    You could give the child the unvarnished truth. ( “It feels good and I’m an adult.” ) It’s not your job to agree with the child’s parents and likewise they’re free to convey any value judgement on your choices to their child.

    But personally I’ve never taken that scorched earth approach. Usually I’m friends with the parents and I’m not keen on straining that friendship, even in a small way. My “compromise” is to look at it like this: part of growing up is learning all the many, many subtle nuances of living in our society, one of which is that there’s a whole class of questions that you don’t bring up in casual conversation. What I do is pick an age-appropriate way to indicate to the child that this question is out of bounds. I also try to balance my answer out against the child’s natural curiosity ( which I’m not interested in squelching either ).

    So if the child is very young I might simply say “I don’t know” and change the subject. If the child is older, I might give a brief rationale and then explain that this information is private. And change the subject. I always change the subject which, in addition to getting me out of a sticky situation, is an educational tool in and of itself because this is what we adults do amongst ourselves when we want to unobtrusively indicate that the subject is not open for discussion.

  13. I think it’s admirable that you asked for advice on answering this question.

    My grandpa, great aunt, and great uncle smoked, and I asked Mom about their smoking when I was a kid. I had heard that smoking was bad for you and didn’t understand why someone would smoke if everyone knew it was unhealthy. Mom told me that people don’t always make choices that you agree with, but you have to let them make choices for themselves. She told me that smoking is difficult to stop once you start, and they had been smoking most of their lives. As a kid I could empathize with this without wanting to smoke myself.

    Maybe you could say, “I’ve been smoking for a long time, and it is difficult to stop.” It might not be the whole truth if you enjoy smoking, but it would be a straightforward answer that wouldn’t make smoking sound attractive to kids.

    Kids are smarter than we give them credit for a lot of the time. If a kid is asking you about smoking, they’ve already been told that they shouldn’t smoke. It’s natural for them to be curious when they see an adult doing something they were told they couldn’t do. There are definitely ways that you can answer them without making smoking sound attractive while still explaining your actions.

  14. I do think it is an admirable question to ask, because there is thoughtfulness behind it.
    My dad was a smoker for 50 years. As a kid I understood he liked it, and that it was bad for you. Since this was the 70s and 80s, it was more common and much more socially accepted. In fact when I told my daughter recently that when I was growing up there were smoking sections in restaurants, she did not believe me!
    Anyway, for those of us who do not smoke, it can be easy to judge the behavior and do all we can to use facts to try to get the person to stop. The reality is twofold—it is a choice to start and a choice to continue, which is compounded by the fact that it is addictive. So therefore a choice to continue is complicated by many factors.
    I know my dad wanted to stop before he did and it was a struggle. And no amount of bullying, cajoling or guilt from others could change his mind until something inside him clicked and it was the right time.
    I am glad that the better part of my 14 year olds life was after my dad quit. But my heart is now broken because my dad passed away three weeks ago at age 75 because he had COPD from smoking. He was otherwise healthy for his entire life. In the end lung issues for smokers are ironic, I think, because you are no longer able to breathe on your own.
    My dad was a kind, quiet, gentle man–the kind the world needs more of, not less. He owned his own behaviors and addictions around smoking. I always respected his choices, even if I did not understand them.
    But I have to be honest, I sure wish he was still here–especially to see my daughter, who always made him smile, grow up. We all know some of what we do will have long term affects “some day”…trust me someday actually does come. And instead of watching your granddaughter in her school musical, she is reading a poem at your funeral.
    Regardless…we all need to be more gentle with each other and ourselves. And a bitmore thoughtful, too.

  15. I wonder if your answer could be put into two categories. The children of people you know, and the children of strangers.

    I think that, similar to any other choice (drinking, religion, who you’re married to, etc) kids of people you know are going to ask questions and those parents (I’m assuming your friends/relatives/coworkers, etc) probably have opinions on the type of information that their kid gets. So, I might say, approaching those people and asking, “hey, if little Johnny asks me about smoking/my hair color/my tattoos/who I choose to bring as a date to this potluck,” how do you want me to answer it? I’m the type of parent who wants honest answers like “I like it,” and don’t need the caveats of “but it’s not good for you so you shouldn’t do it.” I’m a pretty honest and straightforward person when dealing with kids, BUT I understand that some parents don’t like that. So I’ve said this to friends, so that I can say, ‘when your son asks me about sex or smoking or whatever,” I don’t want to fuck up, so help a sister out here and give me some advice. Ya know? I don’t want to be the person who ruins Santa Claus because I say, “no I don’t believe.” Ya know?

    But with strangers kids I could give two rats asses. I might say, “because I want to.” Or I might say, “why are you asking? What do you know about smoking?” (Because kids are nosy little twits and usually want to tell you something about their world.”

  16. A good friend of mine has 2 children and they both asked me why I smoked, citing the things they had heard about how dangerous it is.

    First, I looked at my friend for confirmation that I could answer the question, and she nodded. I told the girls about nicotine, and how it sort of tricks your brain into thinking you need it when really you don’t (for their age, this was the only way to explain it, I realize it’s a little more complicated because science).

    Then I explained that the reason I started was because my best friend was smoking, and said I should try it, and I did. And I haven’t been able to successfully quit since. Ended it with telling them that just because your friends are doing something doesn’t necessarily mean you should, and to choose wisely when you’re confronted with those situations.

    They seemed pretty content with that answer.

  17. Hi guys, OP here. Huge thanks to those with helpful suggestions and advice.
    First I’ll clarify, i would never smoke in an unclosed space with a kid, like a car or room/house. Or with a non-amoker, or a dog for that matter.
    The parties I attend are predominantly outdoors with firepots, and i always walk at least 10m away before lighting up. We live in the countryside, and i dont feel comfy smoking in he city because there are so many people around.
    However kids are curios, and they often follow. Two in particular are often prompted by thier parents to ask.
    I’ve only been asked this question by kids i know.
    None of my close friends have an allergy to smoke, and I’m sorry to those that do however I can’t control whether you will have reaction to me just as those that wear perfume can’t control whether perfume sensitive people will react to them.
    I do hope to quit in future, but that will be and has to be my choice.
    Thanks again for publishing the post and for people’scomments 🙂

  18. As an Aussie I sympathise with those who suffer in public places. I work in a public hospital where smoking is banned but the ban is not enforced. So cancer patients must walk through smokers to get treatment. How sick is that?!

    To me smoking is a personal choice with communal consequences. As they are not easily instantly quantifiable, they are hard to immediately prove. Any health effect can’t be traced back to one specific smoker and time. This is similar for drinking to a point. If parents are alcoholic it may increase the risk of children becoming so also, but then that may have happened for other reasons. It’s difficult. But then drink driving makes it easy to point out a criminal and a victim. That clear cut situation doesn’t happen so much with smoking.

    I find that smoking is a big “shame” behaviour because it annoys a bunch of people, it costs more and more money, it doesn’t really put anyone in a party or fun mood the way drinks do, and it’s been science based acknowledged as carcinogenic. Alcohol is almost going this way but probably not to the same degree. I feel like the “fat shaming” culture is similar because this like smoking is also physically obvious, however obesity is more associated with self harm whilst anti smoker focus on the harm of people in the area. I’m annoyed by drunk people who shove me in crowds, high people who try to lick my colourful geometric tattoos as if they were interactive at raves, smokers who stink my dreadlocks out within half an hour.

    I want to respect others peoples freedom to make a choice about their own health. If I feel it effects me negatively I will choose to not be around them. But when their actions potentially put my child at risk? Difficult.

    My partner’s father is slowly dying of liver cirrhosis and emphysema. At 55. He’s finally quit smoking and drinking. His four adult sons all continue to do so heavily. They wheeled him outside with his oxygen tank, then took off for cigarettes in the parking lot. What does Poppy tell his four year old grandson when he sits on his knee and watches him wheeze? What does his two year old grandson think when his mother chain smokes with one hand and blows smoke the other way while he rests on one hip? What about when he coughs? At what age will he make the connection, and then make a judgement on how his family ranks his health against their convenience and addiction?

    To me a non smoker and never having been a heavy drinker an now a non-drinker, who grew up in a non-smoking light drinking fairly happy stable two parents family home, I cannot understand the choices his family make. But I can’t judge. I have no idea of the complicate web of reasons for their strong addictions. I can have a lot of really strong thoughts inside my head and feel angry, but I cannot outwardly judge.

    All I can do is remove myself and one day my children from the area, as pointedly an politely as I can manage, and support anyone who is trying to quit.

  19. One of our best friends smokes, and while he is careful not to smoke soon before coming over to visit, and he never smokes anywhere near our kids, I have worried about this a lot. He is very blunt, and asked us to tell the kids that he knows it not healthy or safe, and that’s it’s something he chooses to do because he has some really difficult things in his life and he’s still working on ways to make them better that are healthy and safe. We’ve used it as a platform to talk about healthy ways to cope with tough stuff, which has been good, but our 3.5 year old really, really struggles with the idea that Uncle John is doing something to hurt himself – no matter what the reason. That is, unfortunately, another good conversation to have: we don’t always understand everything about people, but that doesn’t mean we can’t love them anyway, and loving people is one of the best ways to help them out.

  20. Because so many people are talking about their dislike of smoking and their allergies, I wanted to voice a different opinion. I LOVE the smell of cigarette smoke. I love being around smokers. I love smelling smoke on my clothes and hair. I love having a partner who smokes because kissing someone while they’re smoking turns me on like crazy. I’m actually disappointed by the decreasing amount of smokers and the decreasing places where they can smoke.

    I’m pretty sure I’ll get some comments telling me that that’s all well and good, but I’m in the minority and I should set aside my preferences in deference to other people’s allergies/asthma/dislike/whatever. But my point is that just because YOU dislike the smell doesn’t mean that every non-smoker does. My preference is no more or less important than yours, just as a smoker’s preference is no more or less important than anyone else’s. Your illnesses/allergies don’t give you a right to dictate anyone else’s behavior, nor do they give you the right to shame people for participating in an activity that only affects you when you’re near them.

  21. To answer the original question – how do you explain your actions to a kid – it’s up to us, as adults, to make choices that we feel comfortable talking about – so firstly, try to make choices you are okay being up front about. Addiction is a bitch, but there are ways to deal with that (in dialogue and in action). I know all about the struggle firsthand, so I’m not speaking from a place of judgement. It’s an ongoing challenge and if we surrender ourselves (in part or whole) to substance abuse, we need to learn social coping mechanisms at the very least.

    If you’re honest with yourself, finding a way to express your reality without tempting a child to engage in the same shouldn’t be too tough, unless of course, you’re creating a repetitious example for the child (i.e. if they see you going outside to smoke every day, it will normalize it for them, and your words become pretty irrelevant).

    So I think for parents, this whole question is another ballgame. I have not given it enough consideration to properly speak to that, so let’s assume you’re not a parent, since it says you see kids “at parties.”

    I would probably say something simple and true, like “because I’m compelled to do things that are bad for me. People are not always healthy. I would love to be healthy like you are, but it’s hard to go back to that after you’ve treated your body badly for so long.” If the child persists, “Why did you treat yourself badly in the first place?” you can always talk about peer pressure, or curiosity – the thing that the child is experiencing right then. How curiosity can be great, but it’s something we have to be very careful about entertaining.

    The best responses to kid inquiries are in the form of an actual conversation – not a one-size-fits-all short answer. Just be humble and admit you’re doing something stupid and that you lack self-control. Nobody smokes because they’re in charge of life. You smoke because you’re addicted. I distinctly recall being a kid and thinking how stupid it was that people did drugs, drank, smoked….how stupid they looked having no control over their behavior. I swore I’d never touch any of that stuff. I touched all of it. All the things. Curiosity was too strong. The things were too available.

    All you can do is show them it’s not as cool as James Dean wants us to think. Even when you see famous people smoking in movies, it’s almost always because they are nervous, scared, stressed out. This is okay to point out to a kid. Kids (of all ages) are very smart and can understand more complexities than most adults give them credit for. I try to make those connections *with* them, rather than saying something vague and letting them use their kid-logic to draw potentially bad conclusions.

    So the short answer is just try to be honest, humble, and considerate. It goes a long way.

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