PBS Kids GO! It's My Life
Smoking: Peer Pressure

If a friend or classmate has ever pushed you into doing something you don't want to do, then you've experienced peer pressure. This is how many kids start smoking. If a popular kid offers you a cigarette, you might think that you'll become popular if you do what he or she says. When a close friend starts smoking, you many worry that you'll lose the friendship if you turn your buddy down.

There are many ways to handle peer pressure. First, remember these two things:

  • You don't have to do anything that you don't want to do.

  • It's perfectly okay to say no. You don't owe anyone an explanation.

But let's face it: saying "no" isn't always easy. Most of us worry about fitting in and what others will think of us. But if you're worried that you'll lose your friend over a peer pressure situation, you may want to take a closer look at the friendship. A true friend will respect your decisions, and someone who ditches you for not taking orders from them was never a friend to begin with. Also, you may discover that some of your other friends secretly feel the same way you do!

If a friend or classmate tries to pressure you, keep in mind why he or she might be doing it:

  • He may be trying to make you feel small, so that he can feel better about himself. You don't need his approval to feel good about yourself.
  • She may be afraid of anyone who is different from her. You can listen to what she has to say, but that doesn't mean you have to agree with her.
  • He could be afraid of criticism, so he'll do the criticizing first. It's better to be alone than to be with someone who is rude to you all the time.
  • Deep down, she may be insecure.
  • He could be making up rules so that he fits and you don't. Know that there are people who will appreciate you for who you are. Seek them out.

If a simple "No, thanks" won't do the trick, here are some other tactics for turning down someone who offers you a cigarette:

  • "I'm allergic to smoke."
  • "The smell of smoke makes me sick and I don't want to smell like that."
  • "My parents will ground me if I come home smelling like smoke."
  • "I know someone who died from smoking and I don't want to do it."
  • "I don't want to start because I'm trying to get my parents to quit."
  • "No thanks, I quit."

Whatever you choose, do what feels right for you. Remember: most young people don't smoke, so you're in good company! If someone won't stop pressuring you, it's okay to call for backup. Talk to an adult you trust, like your teacher, guidance counselor, your parents, or an older brother or sister.

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