Clinical Practice Guidelines

Respectful discussions with parents about their smoking

  • Suggested lines

    Broaching the subject of smoking with parents for the first time can be difficult, however once you become comfortable with your own language around the issue it becomes second nature. To help you get started we have provided you with some examples of lines from our own experience and from research we have conducted with many smoking parents. We have asked for their input about how we can help them to move towards quitting and what approaches they would find most acceptable. If you come up with better lines, please let us know!!

    1. Ask about their smoking:

      "Does anyone at home smoke?"
      (you may find that simply asking this question opens the door for discussion)

         OR

      "Did you receive the smoking brochure on arrival? I need to let you know the campus is now smoke free except in three allocated areas which are shown on this pamphlet… does anyone at home smoke?"

    2. If the parent smokes:

      "I (am sure) you know about smoking and its effects on your child's health…Have you thought about doing anything about it?"

          OR

      "I am sure you know about the effects of smoking on your child's health, we ask every parent if they'd like some information on quitting while they are here. If you are interested please let me or one of the other nurses know and we can refer you onto the quitline or your G.P"
      (non-judgemental; leads nicely to further discussion)

    3. If the parent smokes but says they only smoke outside/ in a separate room/ with the window open etc:

      "Well done. I'm really glad you recognise the potential effect of smoking on child health and you've taken the first step. Have you thought about taking the next step?"

          OR

      "That's great- you're obviously aware that smoking can affect a child's health. If you're interested in quitting or would like some more information we can talk about it now or at some other time during your child's admission."
      (in fact, smoking in a separate location reduces but does not eliminate measurable child smoke exposure. Keep positive about it, because at least the parent is trying!)

    4. Parent says: "What has my smoking got to do with Jimmy's appendicitis?"

      "It is not related to your child's illness necessarily, but the hospital believes parent smoking is an important child health issue. If you would like some help in moving towards quitting we can provide it…" Give them the clean air for your kids brochure (or an alternative) and move on…

            OR

      "We ask every parent who enters the hospital if they smoke as it is an important child health issue and if you are interested in quitting we can provide you with further information"

    5. Parent says: "Are you saying my smoking caused Jimmy's asthma?"

      "No, it is not necessarily related to your child's illness, but the hospital believes parent smoking is an important child health issue. If you would like some assistance in moving towards quitting we can help…" Give them the clean air for your kids brochure (or an alternative) and move on…

    6. Parent says "I've tried stopping smoking 3 times but I can't give up"

      "Well done for trying! Every time you try to quit you learn something new which will make your next attempt more likely to be successful."
      (It usually takes a smoker more than 3 quit attempts before they are successful. Keep them positive so they are more likely to try again)

    7. Parent says "I use smoking as a break…as a time out from the kids..."

      "That's a tough one. I understand your break time is important so the challenge is to find a way of relieving stress that isn't as harmful. "