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Since it's founding in 1997, the CYC-Net discussion group has been asked thousands of questions. These questions often generate many replies from people in all spheres of the Child and Youth Care profession and contain personal experiences, viewpoints, as well as recommended resources.

Below are some of the threads of discussions on varying Child and Youth Care related topics.

Questions and Responses have been reproduced verbatim.

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Youth and smoking

We are wondering how other youth care facilities in Nova Scotia will be dealing with the new legislation around youth and smoking. For example, Will YCW's or Social Workers still be able to "give permission" for a youth to smoke, considering it is illegal for youth to smoke? What about YCW's who allow youth to smoke in their cars or while out for a coffee and a chat? Do other facilities require youth to leave the property to smoke, and is this in effect "giving permission"?

Looking forward to hearing how others are dealing with the issue.

Kim N.

Hi Kim

I work in a Residential Treatment Centre for Adolescent Boys in Southern Ontario where we have to deal with the same issue. To place our situation properly I should tell you that our Centre is located in a rural setting on about 3 acres of property and is well away from any stores and we also have a Section 19 classroom on site: about 75 percent of our residents smoke. The reality we deal with is that most of our residents have 'behavioural' issues; have already been involved negatively with authority and aren't about to give up smoking because a 'piece of paper' says it's illegal. Our team decided that the law is basically unenforceable, especially when we're working to establish therapeutic relationships with these residents and having a war over smoking wouldn't be 'therapeutic' especially considering that half of our staff smoke as well. So we tolerate smoking in a designated area outside within view of the staff office window, and that the residents ask permission to have a 'break'.

No smoking is permitted in the building: smoking paraphernalia (lighters, papers, etc.) are confiscated if found in the building; staff do not smoke in front of residents; nor do they smoke or permit smoking in vehicles when transporting residents and no staff purchase cigarettes or lighters for residents.
So far this approach has worked. It is both pragmatic and unambiguous. It doesn't condone or encourage smoking, but it does avoid taking a hypocritically judgmental stance, and it recognises that, like King Canute, we can't stop the tide from coming in. I hope this helps.

David W.

HI Kim,

I do not see the issue, here, the goverment has said its illegal for kids to smoke, and have them in thier possesion. Whether we agree with the statue thats a different story, but until it is changed we have to follow it, to me it would be the same as alchol, or drugs, do we allow this. This is going to have to be treated like the rest, now if we disagree with the legislation, then we need to take steps to let the law makers know that. To me the issue of what we do seems pretty clear, and yes it is going to be a pain to deal with, what is not so clear is how we feel about the law, with that said, if you were going out with a child would you let them have a beer, if so why not, cause the same logic for me now applies to smoking.
just my 2 cents.

David Rent

In open custody where the clients are allowed independent outings and walks it is near impossible to stop the clients from smoking as they can go and "mooch" cigarettes from a multitude of different sources. We can control what the clients do on our property and ensure they do not have contraband while in the house but this is about as far as I can see it extending. It will be very hard for the province to police this rule. How are the powers that be planning to enforce such a legislation?


Howdy Kim,

With the whole "illegal" thing regarding youth under age smoking, and do we allow it; therefore we are in effect contributing to a minor and subsequently...irresponsible adult youth workers. Well well now. If a youth is going to smoke, then a youth is going to whether we are handing them out or not. Although I do not condone it, nor do I ever hand them out like it's candy, I do not consequence them if they decide to smoke. What I do is let them know that they are underage and that it really isn't good for their "still developing lungs." While on shift I also let the youth know that they smoking anywhere on or near the property is not permitted. Letting a youth smoke in the car in which a staff is driving, is really absurd and not modelling the most ideal of behaviour.

While it is understandable that youth may be going through some traumatic issues and as well, be addicted and therefore want a cigarette, adults still need to be responsible and strong in their guidance and stance. Hopefully things will not get too out of hand regarding this burning issue.


Has ADCRF received official notification from the Dept. as to what will change because of the new legislation. I know of one agency who has not received any information as to what to implement and how. So things remain the same, everyone smokes outside the door. I guess we will stay tuned. I believe that the timing is just off with legislation in place but no specifics in regards to the houses. Smoking is a topic that has created much conversation in our environment. The youth have varying degrees of addictions and withdrawal symptoms from general crankiness to serious threats. The decision that workers make whether to loan/give youth cigarettes when they are craving causes a difficult situation. Some workers want to help the youth get through the craving and others sooth the discomfort with a cigarette. Simply to say that legally it is a no-no does not cover it. The worker on one shift drops the youth a cigarette and the staff coming on the following shift has to deal with the subsequent craving. Some issues that arise allow a variety of methods but there only seems to be one correct one here. The youth know that it is illegal for us to give them cigarettes (or they should). How does this affect the relationship between worker and youth. That the worker cares so much that they are willing to risk their job. With the push to eliminate cigarettes/smoking in youth, should we expect some lawsuits in the future as parents/caregivers call us on our ethically incorrect decision to supply their children with cigarettes. Retail stores may not sell cigarettes to youth so how can we justify giving them. It is also illegal to purchase alcohol for youth – would you give a youth in care a bottle of Rum if they asked for it. If we banned together and the youth knew that they would not receive cigarettes from staff, then we wouldn't have to deal with the issue of some do/some don't. I also wonder if the youth ever feel guilty that they have a hand in this. I know at least one who may and that is to many. Comments?????

I have received your mail and can appreciate the dilemma in which you find yourself. I work for a residential care centre for boys under sixteen who have been sent by the courts. This smoking situation created a great deal of controversy as to the professional ethics of giving or allowing young people to smoke. As a staff body we made a decision to cease the practice of smoking on the units, for everybody i.e. staff and boys alike. The policy was implemented on a blanket scale on 31st Jan 2002 and quite simply it has been a resounding success. At the start it drove smoking underground amongst the boys but this soon faded out. On rare occasions a boy might obtain a cigarette, usually on a family visit, but this is not regarded as "end of the world stuff". The simplest step to eradicate smoking by the young people is to make the decision, inform them what is about to happen, involve them in the decision i.e. THE DATE, then just let it rock and roll. WE are the adults and although they need our guidance and direction they are not stupid. Try it you will be surprised.

Regards from Ireland.

Hi Kim,
About a year ago the agency I work for was forced to have a "no smoking policy". Ultimately we cannot control whether kids smoke or not, but our message to them is we are not encouraging it. We try to have our youth smoke away from the front of the residence, sometimes this is not successful. Really it is a policy we have to say we have, and we try to enforce more when licensing time approaches. The kids understand that we as staff have rules too and this just happens to be one of the more annoying ones.

Good luck!!

I have three thoughts on the smoking issue. Oh maybe more than three, but I will limit myself for brevity.

1. Yes, it is against the law. Youth who have difficulty with laws, rules, authority and being safe and legal need to be held accountable for their actions. Smoking is one example of how we may teach youth about following rules. It is not just a matter of telling the youth to go smoke away from where we can't see them. This sends a message that it is ok as long as I don't see you. This is often understood as they don't care as long as I don't get caught. Such mixed messages with youth may mean it is only wrong when I get caught. I this the kind of thinking I would want to encourage? No, I don't think so, Homy don't play that.

2. The safety net. Years ago, before smoking was illegal youth is a program I worked at had the privilege of smoking and it was built into the reward system. Seems like it encouraged teen smoking. Any way, the line was then drawn that drugs like pot and acid were the real issue. We were finding pot and dealing with kids on acid quiet frequently. This all changed when we stopped the smoking and made it the line. Rather than street drugs being brought in we found kids trying to sneak in cigarettes. This is the concept of the safety net at work. When making rules and enforcing laws I make the limit so that when they cross the line they have a safety net to fall into. I would rather the issue be about smoking that about meth, cocain or other more dangerous drugs. Kid will always push the limits and rules to help them come to their own conclusion about morals and values.

3. Smoking is unhealthy and results in a variety of illnessess. Just as Safety should be a high priority I want the youth to know that I value health and want them to be healthy. I always error on the side of safety and health in activities and when a youth is injured. Same with other activities which may affect the health of the youth. This includes diet and other factors. If youth know we are concerned about their health and safety they may to see this as an important aspect of their own life. Caring for oneself and having the self concept to make good choices about life is a step towards independence.

Lastly, Consequences: When a youth is caught smoking We address it as a program expectation, a health issue and a law. It may be the youth will need to do some related community service around the smoking issue. This could be at a cancer unit or elder care facility where they could help those who are suffering from smoking related health issues. They may have an assignment of smoking and health. There is any number of ways of consequating the behavior so they know that I do not condone, encourage or accept them smoking. I don't have to call the police and have them given a ticket for smoking unless they continue to do it and are encouraging others. Youth are funny about this stuff. If they know I don't care, either do they. If they know I don't care then they seem to respect me less and try to get other things over on me. If I am consistently pushing the values of the program and holding them accountable they may not like it but they know I care. I don't need to have a heavy hammer to beat them over the head. I just need to respond in a manner that says NO!

Oh well, one more thing. By having the youth go away from the front entrance and smoke, a negative sub-culture is being created. I doubt that any staff accompany the youth to go smoke. So while youth are hanging out smoking they are creating relationships which may also not be supported by the values of the program. Along with this, if the program is within the community it does not take long for the word to get out that the program does not provide supervision for the youth and that they roam around in gangs. Even if this is not the case the neighbors will see it like this. This has been the case with school as well as treatment programs I have been associated with. Being a community partner and responding to their concerns is very important to maintaining a positive image in the community. I try to get feedback from those around us so I know how they view the youth and the program. I want to respond to their concerns.
Well enough from my perspective. Hope it is helpful.


I totally agree with Amy, politicians and dictators make these laws/rules that are not being supported by other people. This in itself make things challenging, we have parents who allow smoking, we have stores that sell cigarettes to minors, we have police that don't bother to enforce the law around minors smoking. I am sure courts would be backed up for many years if police enforced the smoking by laws. This is one of those things where we do not encourage and say don't do on our/agency property but yet the youth are on other peoples properties.

Tom Jones

Is smoking not like anything else we work with? Stealing is wrong and against the law but when it is presented to us as a problem we don't simply say "There will be no stealing here!" as if a long-standing problem can be solved at the stroke of a legislative pen. We start work on it ... Hitting people over the head with a broom handle is against the law, so is smoking dope, so is lying about your age in a bar ... but we don't solve these issues ONLY by saying "You can't do that here!" Why should smoking be different?


Hello all,

So here is a little twist on the smoking issue for me. At my job we have always condemned smoking. Well recently I talked to a friend who works in a group home for aborginal youth, and she mentioned something about smoking. My response was "you let them smoke". It turns out that the youth in her group home are given a tin of tobacco every week. She told me that this is also paid for by the government. She went on to say that tobacco is never supposed to be denied to aboriginal youth. I had never heard this before, and do tell aboriginal clients to stop smoking and consequence them if they do. Has anyone else heard this before or know anything more about it? It really does change a lot of things and pose many new questions if this is in fact the case.

Lilah Danielle

In reply to Lilah Lawson's input yesterday: I think the reasoning the government ensures indigenous youth are not denied tobacco is that some indigenous people use tobacco as part of their ceremonies, and tobacco is used as gifts in some of their cultures. That said not all indigenous people follow their traditions or cultures, and not all nations have the same traditions. Also, I don't think the government is saying they are allowed to smoke, just that they are allowed tobacco. Probably this is why your friend's home buys them a tin rather than packages.


Tobacco for Aboriginal youth is not necessarily for just smoking, but is also used in smudging as part of their traditional culture.

Shmoking, shmoking, shmoking, Illegal for under age, yes. As well, adults who provide cigarettes to youth, especially youth in care who have morphed thoughts on what is decent, loving, proper and healthy, are adding to the turmoil. However, lest we forget that this is a field in which we are to hold our judgements at bay for the sake of 'Solution Focus'. Send those letters of protest if you will. Send them to your superiors and supervisors, etceteras, etceteras. Send them to those you would have involved in the remedy of such illegal goings on, and send them consistently. The squeaky wheel gets the grease folks.

Please...remember to offer solutions or possible approaches to the problem thereof. Like for instance, offer incentives to staff who do not dole out 'Smogs' {As I likes to calls 'em} and see how you can fast track that to other agency.

{Yes, yes...I can here the wheels turning now...that this is not practical or even doable because it's impossible to track who is and who is not sneaking them to the youth.} It is hard to know beyond a shadow of a doubt who is being honest about it and who is not. Blind faith, I surmise, can sometimes be a very powerful tool. This is just one solution I have come across that has worked for others. I am no expert but I have learned to open my mind and try many things that would be otherwise considered a 'foolish idea". Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Just posing a thought or two.
Thanks. Linda.

Having staff arbitrarily deciding which laws are to be followed or not is poor policy and lousy role modeling for youth.

Jeff Glass

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