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Alcohol and Cigarettes

Young people may choose to drink or smoke because of peer pressure, the need to relax, or to get away from things that are too hard to deal with. However smoking or drinking at a young age can be dangerous for the mind, body and soul.  

There are a few reasons why young people choose to drink alcohol or start smoking cigarettes. Having friends or whānau who smoke and drink is a big one. Other reasons might be peer pressure, a desire to fit in, to relax, or to get away from family or relationship problems that are hard to deal with. Whatever the reason, smoking or drinking at young age can be quite dangerous.

Alcohol affects the way the brain works. Alcohol can hurt young people more than adults because their brains are still developing.  Young people are more likely to have accidents and injuries, become addicted, have trouble learning new things and have memory problems because of drinking alcohol.

Cigarettes contain nicotine and lots of other nasty chemicals. Young people who smoke are more likely to become addicted than adults. Smoking can hurt young people's breathing, physical fitness, and health. If they keep smoking, they will have a higher risk of getting lung cancer and heart disease.

Keeping an eye out

If a young person has been smoking or drinking, you might notice:

  • Vomiting or saying they're feeling ill
  • Tiredness, anger or irritability
  • Lower marks at school, not completing schoolwork or skipping school
  • Smell of smoke or alcohol on their clothes
  • Change in friends or social group
  • Alcohol, cigarettes or money going missing

Healthy conversations

If you think a young person you care about is smoking or drinking, talk to them about it. Talking openly about the risks involved can help them to stay safe and make better choices.

  • Find a quiet space, at a time when neither of you are busy
  • Stay calm throughout the conversation, don't judge them, and listen to what they have to say
  • Explain that you are concerned about them and that you want to help
  • Talk about a specific behaviour or any changes you’ve noticed - ask them what’s going on for them
  • Have a conversation with them, instead of giving a lecture. That means listening to what they have to say and responding to their comments calmly
  • Talk about the damage that alcohol and cigarettes can do. The more information they have about why it’s unhealthy and dangerous, the more prepared they are to make better choices
  • Ask about why they might be drinking or smoking. Is there something they’re finding difficult to cope with or go through? Do they find it hard to refuse alcohol when offered?

Taking action

Here are some things you can do to help a young person who is smoking or drinking:

  • Know the facts. Get to know the risks associated with drinking alcohol or smoking and talk openly about these. Make sure they know the consequences and health risks
  • Be a good role model for them. Do you smoke? How often do you drink alcohol? The more young people see family and whānau smoking and drinking, the more likely they are to do it too
  • Decide not to have to cigarettes or alcohol at home
  • Make a safety plan. If they are going out to a party and there is alcohol, do they know how to refuse a drink? What about cigarettes? Is there someone they can call if things get out of hand?
  • If drinking or smoking is a problem for a young person, do the best you can to get them support. This might mean going with them to see a doctor or helping them book an appointment with a counsellor



Confidential Helpline Number: 0800 778 778

Quitline is committed to helping all New Zealanders quit smoking, with a particular focus on Māori, Pacific peoples and pregnant women. Their free services are funded by the Ministry of Health. 

Alcohol and Drug Helpline

Confidential Helpline: 0800 787 797 or free text adh to 234

The Alcohol and Drug Helpline offers confidential information, insight and support on any problem, issue or query people have about their own or someone else’s drinking or drug taking. 


This Health Promotion Agency website aims to inform New Zealanders on the effects alcohol has on the body, as well as how to get help if alcohol is impacting your life. 


WellTrust aims to help young people to reach their full potential as contributing members of the community, free from the negative effects of alcohol and drug use, by providing quality alcohol and drug education and intervention services.

Altered High

Altered High youth service works in the wider Auckland region to help young people with concerns about their own, or someone else’s, alcohol or drug use. They provide interventions to reduce the harm from alcohol or drug use and help young people stop using alcohol and/or drugs.


The Buzzed website shares stories about the impacts of alcohol and other drugs, to help people start talking about making positive changes.


Confidential Helpline: 0800 376 633 or free text 234

Youthline provides free phone, text, and email counselling support. Its website has great information for youth dealing with challenging situations including information on alcohol and cigarettes.

We Are Family

A collection of personal stories about being affected by someone else’s problematic use of alcohol and other drugs, from Matua Raḵi.


Information about the series, how to talk about some of the heavy issues it raises, and how to get support if you need it.

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