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As a parent or caregiver, you are the biggest influencer in your child’s life. Research shows talking with your child about tobacco, alcohol, and drugs is the best way to protect him or her from the harmful health effects of tobacco, substance use and medication misuse.


As a parent, you can influence your kid’s decisions and make a difference. Parents have more influence in their children’s lives than kids peers, music or media. Here are ways to protect your child from the dangers and health effects of tobacco, substance, and drug use.

  • Talk to your children. 

    Start early (age 5 or 6) and continue the conversation about the dangers of tobacco and tobacco messages they see everyday.

  • Spend time with your kids. 

    Be involved in your child’s life, ask them questions, compliment them when they do something right, and schedule time together.

  • If you smoke, quit. 

    As a parent who smokes, it’s hard to tell your kids not to smoke and it’s harder for them to understand they shouldn’t when you do. Get help with quitting.

  • Get involved. 

    Work with your community, schools, and local organizations to help meet their goals of having tobacco-free environments. Get your kids involved in youth tobacco prevention programs.

  • Protect your kids from secondhand smoke

    There is no safe level of tobacco smoke exposure. Protect your child from secondhand smoke by visiting tobacco-free areas.

  • Make rules.

    Talk to your children and let them know the rules and the consequences of using alcohol or other drugs. Enforce the rules so they know you are serious.

  • Talk with other parents.

    Exchange contact info and keep in touch with other parents to ask about plans, parties, and supervision. Let them know to contact you if they have concerns about your child.

  • Be up and ready.

    Wait up or set the alarm for curfew time. Talk with your teen about the night.

  • Limit Access.

    If you have alcohol in your home, keep track of it – know how much you have and keep it where teens cannot get it.

  • Check in often.

    Be sure your child knows how to reach you at all times. Ask them to call you at a set time so you can confirm where they are and how they are doing.

  • Keep track of your medications.

    Know what prescription and over the counter medicines you have and count them on a regular basis.

  • Store safely.

    Lock and store medications in a safe place.

  • Properly dispose.

    When you stop taking your medications, properly dispose of them to prevent misuse and pollution. Your local law enforcement agency can help you find the nearest drop off location.

  • Use as intended.

    Use your medications only as prescribed and never share prescriptions with others.

  • Know the dangers.

    Understand the dangers of medication misuse and talk to your children about addiction.

Health Effects on Youth

Because your child’s body is still growing, the affect of tobacco and alcohol use is different than it is for an adults.  It can negatively impact emotional and physical development, as well as lead to long-term health effects. Youth are often unaware of the risks of addiction, which can interfere with school, relationships, and health.

Everyday, 1,500 kids become daily smokers, and one-third of them will die prematurely as a result.
Nicotine is highly addictive for youth and it's poisonous - it is a pesticide used on crops and can be deadly if ingested.
Youth smoking can lead to lungs not working as well and is related to poor lung growth, chronic coughing, and wheezing.
Tobacco use narrows blood vessels, strains the heart, decreases oxygen, and causes shortness of breath.
Teen tobacco use can cause unpleasant side effects such as increased phlegm, acne, colds, trouble sleeping, and excess facial hair on girls.
Alcohol can have long-term effects on the developing teen brain including memory formation, personality, and behavior development.
Alcohol is a major cause of death from injuries among young people, including car crashes, homicides, suicides, and injuries such as falls, burns, and drownings.
Youth who drink before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who begin drinking at age 21.
Alcohol lowers teens' good judgment and self-control, leading to bad decisions and risky behavior including sexual activity, increasing the chance of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STD's). It also increases the risk of carrying out, or being a victim of, a physical or sexual assault.
Alcohol keeps teens from doing their best in school, work, and learning new skills, which can affect them for the rest of their life.
Youth cannabis use can lead to experimentation and dependence on other drugs.
With cannabis and drug use, teens are often experimenting with dangerous chemicals and can't know for sure what they are putting into their bodies and how it will affect them.
Cannabis and drug use can have permanent effects on brain development and long-term memory, as well as impact judgment and coordination.

Products to Know


Finely cut tobacco leaves rolled in thin paper for smoking.

Health Concern

Nicotine is the primary component of tobacco, and is the primary reason tobacco is addictive.

Electronic Vapor Products

Devices used to aerosolize active ingredients for the purpose of inhalation.

Health Concern

Currently unregulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so amount of nicotine is unknown. Nicotine is addictive in any form and lethal in high doses.

Chewing Tobacco

Smokeless tobacco consumed by placing a portion of the tobacco between the cheek and gum or upper lip.

Health Concern

It is highly addictive, containing high levels of nicotine and many cancer-causing chemicals. In addition to the cancer risk, other oral side effects include concerns with gums, teeth, and bad breath.


Flavored smokeless tobacco.

Health Concern

Same risks as chewing tobacco, but faded sweeteners and flavors make it more appealing to youth.


Tightly rolled bundle of dried and fermented tobacco leaf in a series of types, flavors, and sizes.

Health Concern

Cigars contain the same hazards as cigarettes and are taxed at a much lower rate, resulting in lower prices.


Hand-rolled tendu leaves tied up with string.

Health Concern

Bidis contain low-grade tobacco and more tar, nicotine, and carbon monoxide than cigarettes.

Kreteks (Clove Cigarettes)

Cigarettes made with a blend of tobacco, cloves and other flavors.

Health Concern

Contain the substance “Eugenol” which is a mild anesthetic that causes a person to smoke more deeply, making them even more of a hazard than cigarettes.

Natural Cigarettes

All natural, additive-free cigarettes.

Health Concern

Contain hundreds of different chemicals, many of which can be extremely dangerous when burned and inhaled.


Hand held devices made specifically to smoke tobacco with a chamber, stem, and mouthpiece.

Health Concern

Use black (air cured) tobacco, which carries a higher risk of esophageal and lung cancer, even for those that do not inhale.

Water Pipes (Hookahs)

An instrument that mixes tobacco smoke with water or other liquid, then draws into the mouth.

Health Concern

The water does not filter out toxic chemicals and group sharing can increase spread of germs.

Potentially Reduced Exposure Products (PREPS)

Alternative tobacco products put out by various tobacco companies with the explicit or implied claim that they are less harmful than mainstream products.

Health Concern

Sometimes confused with products such as nicotine gum, lozenge or inhaler, which have been approved to help with smoking cessation. PREPS are not lower-risk and are not approved for this use.


Recreational or medicinal drug.

Health Concern

Long-term side effects may include addiction, decreased mental ability.

Opioids (Fentanyl)

A prescription drug typically used to treat patients with severe pain or to manage pain after surgery.

Health Concern

50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, heroin, and other dangerous drugs.


Typical products such as glue, spray cans, paints or sprays are inhaled.

Health Concern

Inhalants are a serious risk to youth. Users can die the 1st, 10th or 100th time a product is misused as an inhalant.

Hallucinogens (LSD, Acid)

A psychedelic drug known for its psychological effects.

Health Concern

Used as an escape drug, with possible adverse psychiatric reactions such as anxiety, paranoia, and delusions.

MDMA (Molly, Ecstacy)

A hallucinogen or stimulant.

Health Concern

Risks of overdose includes high blood pressure, faintness, panic attacks, and in severe cases, a loss of consciousness and seizures.

Synthetic Drugs
(K2, Spice, Bath Salts)

Man-made chemicals rather than natural ingredients.

Health Concern

Due to growing number of chemicals developed, there is no way of knowing what the drugs contain and the effects are unknown.

Tips To Help Youth Stop Using

If your child is using tobacco, alcohol, or drugs, it will be up to him or her to make the decision to stop. Your support is critical to helping them. Here are some things you can do: 

Don't lecture, punish, or threaten. Show your interest in a non-threatening way by asking a few questions.
Don’t accept excuses like it's "not a big deal" or "I can quit anytime."
Find out why your child is using. Your child may want to be accepted by a peer group, or he or she might want your attention.
Discuss what changes can be made in his or her life to help them stop.
Make a list with your teen or preteen of the reasons why they want to quit smoking or stop using drugs and alcohol. Refer back to this list when your teen is tempted.
Use personal stories of you and your loved ones to show how using tobacco, alcohol, and drugs may impact his or her life.
Prepare for mood swings, challenges, stress, and social impact that these lifestyle changes may bring.
Contact your child’s physician for connections to local community support services.
For help with quitting tobacco, <a href="">Maine QuitLink</a> offers free and confidential support. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW. For help with quitting alcohol or substances visit <a href="">211Maine</a> .
Find a local Student Intervention & Reintegration Program (SIRP), for high school-aged youth who have experimented with alcohol and/or other drugs. Find more resources and information for help with youth alcohol and drug use.

Vaping Support Line

The Maine Vaping Quit Support Line is available to any Maine adult or youth, speak with a trained Quit Coach for support and get answers to your questions about vaping. It’s free and confidential! Parents, if you have vaping questions, call 1-844-9NO-VAPE to speak with a coach or email for support.

Times Have Changed

If you are a parent of guardian, times have changed since you were a teen. It’s a different world. It’s a different time. It’s a new era! The change between then and now is a lot more serious than just hairstyles, fashion and bad to the bone sayings. Our kids today engage in behaviors and products that didn’t exist back in the day and can be a lot more harmful. There’s a lot to catch up on! Get the facts, know what to look for, and know what you can do to help prevent your child from tobacco and substance use. 

Get the 411 – See How Times Have Changed

All Bottled Up

Stress. Anxiety. Boredom. Unrealistic expectations. Do you know what your teen is keeping bottled up inside? When the pressures of everyday life meet the availability of prescription stimulants, your teen may be in harm’s way.

Medications such as Adderall®, Ritalin®, Concerta®, or Dexedrine®, when prescribed by a doctor, can help manage symptoms of ADHD. But some teens are taking stimulants not prescribed to them. The reasons may vary from using as a study aid to avoiding boredom. The most common source of these drugs is their own friends or family members. Talk to your teen about their bottled up feelings and the serious risks of taking medication that isn’t prescribed.

Get Youth Involved

The development of youth leadership skills and youth-adult partnerships are essential to environmental and policy change around tobacco and substance abuse in Maine. Getting youth involved will help reduce and prevent tobacco and alcohol use among their peers, as well as empower them with the skills they need to create a healthy community.

Maine Facts

of high schoolers smoke
of middle schoolers smoke
of all youth use smokeless tobacco
more than
aren't interested in quitting
are "very confident" they could quit
of teens said they drank in the past month
of high schoolers say it's easy to get alcohol
say they've had 5+ alcoholic drinks in the past 2 weeks
of high schoolers say there's no harm in using cannabis
of high schoolers say they've misused a prescription drug
year old teens are likely to try cannabis for the first time