Smoking Cigarettes — a Talking Points lesson plan

We all know the dangers of smoking cigarettes and the harm they have on our health.

This is a full English lesson on smoking and the effects it can have on a person’s life. It also deals with bad habits in general.

Feel free to use this lesson in your own class for English, ESL or IELTS — or any other class for that matter!

Let me know what you think in the comments below…





Do you smoke? Do you know anyone else who smokes?

How is smoking regarded in your county?

Should smoking be banned? Why/why not?





Harry has been smoking cigarettes since he was 15 years old. He is now 40 and desperately wants to give up but can’t.

“I have tried to quit smoking on my own,” he says. “But I just don’t have the willpower. I can manage at most just a week or two, then I find that I start again. I don’t know what to do.”

The reason Harry wants to stop is not so much that smoking is bad for his health, but because of the social stigma attached to smoking. When he started smoking, it was regarded as cool. Now, fewer people are smoking and as such, it is now seen as something anti-social and dirty.

“Another thing happened,” said Harry. “I was at work and I had to go outside to smoke a cigarette. Years ago people were smoking inside buildings and offices. Now there is no smoking allowed. I can understand that. But there were complaints from other members of staff. They were saying that I was taking a break once an hour. Someone even timed me! They said I took 11 minutes to smoke one cigarette!”

Since then Harry has been told to cut down on his cigarette breaks. The HR department at work told him he was taking on average an hour and a half in cigarette breaks every day. The HR manager advised him that unless he cut down on his cigarette breaks, his salary would be docked every month.

“That might amount to seven and a half hours every week,” Harry said. “I was shocked when they told me. In the old days of smoking, everyone took cigarette breaks, because everyone smoked. Now I feel like I am the only one smoking.”

So not only does Harry feel like a social pariah, there is an economic cost too.

“A pack of cigarettes costs the Earth these days,” he says. “Plus, if I start getting my salary cut every month that means I am only being paid four days for every week. It never occurred to me how expensive smoking is to me. I have to stop or I will end up in big trouble.”

Poor Harry is not alone. Many people in his generation are now addicted to smoking but now finding they are in a world that looks down on smoking.

In the past, there were smoking sections in restaurants and cafes, all public places allowed smoking and people could also smoke on the subway, on the train and even on aeroplanes. That has all changed and now gradually smoking has been banned from all public areas. There is no smoking section in any restaurants now.

“I feel like a zombie,” said Harry. “All my colleagues are annoyed with me because I take too much time with cigarette breaks. And then when I finish work I can’t smoke on the subway on the way home and I can’t smoke in my favourite pub at the weekend. I have to stop or I’ll have no friends left.”




Reading Comprehension Questions


How long has Harry been smoking?

Why can’t Harry stop smoking?

What is the longest period Harry has stopped smoking for?

Why does Harry want to stop smoking?

What happened in Harry’s office related to his smoking habit?

How long does Harry take for a smoke break?

How long does this add up to every day? How long per week?

What is another reason that Harry wants to stop smoking?

Is smoking allowed in public places where Harry lives?

How do Harry’s colleagues feel about it? What about the HR manager?

Can Harry smoke on his way to or from work?

How about where he likes to socialise?


Essential Vocabulary



to give up


social stigma

regarded as


timed/to time

to cut down

HR department


to be docked


social pariah


costs the earth


to look down on






on the way home





Write down all the words and phrases in your vocabulary notebook. Look in your dictionary

and find the meaning of each word. Write the definition next to each word.

Then make up your own sentences using each word or phrase.

For example:

Notebooka small book with pages of blank paper that students use to make notes when


I left my notebook at home so I was unable to make any notes in my English class.”



Bad Habits


What are bad habits?

As one group, brainstorm all the different bad habits that you can think of. Some may be very bad for a person’s health and may cause some problems publicly. Others may be bad for the individual but not a problem for anyone else.

Get one student to write down all the bad habits on the board and say what problems these bad habits can cause for the individual.

And any problems these bad habits can cause for the general public.



Discussion Questions


Do you smoke? Do you want to quit smoking? Why did you start?

Do you know anyone that smokes? How is this affecting their life?

What are some of the health risks of smoking?

Is smoking banned in public places in your country?

How is smoking regarded in your country? Do only men smoke? Or women too?

What other bad habits do people indulge in your country?

Do you have any bad habits? Are they very unhealthy? Why do you do these things?

Is it possible for a person to give up smoking? What steps do they need to take?

What is passive smoking? Is this a real thing?

What about people who smoke vapes? Are these safer than cigarettes?

Do you agree that smokers are ‘social pariahs’ these days? Why?

Will smoking as a habit eventually die out in the world? Why/why not?





You are the marketing department for a health organisation.

You have been asked to design a poster to put up in schools to warn children and teenagers not to smoke.

In small groups, design a poster that can give a strong impact against smoking and that can be displayed in schools.

When you are ready, show your ideas to the class.


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Smoking Cigarettes

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2 thoughts on “Smoking Cigarettes — a Talking Points lesson plan”

  1. My father said he knew every cigarette he smoked was like a nail in his coffin, but he kept on smoking. I know it’s a matter of personal choice but if he had given up smoking we would have had him with us longer.

    My question is: why swim upstream?
    My tips are: stop, cold turkey; listen to the ostracism; don’t burn your money. Instead, give the money to charity or take up another hobby and save your lungs. Remember many have been able to quit smoking completely and if they can do it, so can you.

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