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Teens and Smoking

What's the big deal about smoking? Lots of my friends do it.

Did you know that about 80% of teens in the United States don’t smoke? They’ve made a healthy choice.

Think about this.

  • One third of all new smokers will eventually die younger than normal of smoking-related diseases.
  • And nearly 90% of all smokers started when they were teens.

This is what smoking does to your body

  • Carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke takes oxygen from your body while many cancer-causing chemicals go in.
  • Your teeth and nails turn yellow and disgusting and your breath stinks.
  • You cannot taste or smell things very well.
  • Nicotine, the main drug in tobacco, causes your heart to beat faster and work less effectively. Nicotine is highly addictive.

Athletes who smoke can never reach the peak of their natural ability or do as well as nonsmoking athletes because their bodies get less oxygen. This is why coaches tell athletes never to smoke.

Tobacco can kill

Each time you take a puff on a cigarette, you inhale 400 toxic chemicals like

  • Nicotine (A drop of pure nicotine can kill.)
  • Cyanide (a deadly poison)
  • Benzene (used in making paints, dyes, and plastics)
  • Formaldehyde (used to preserve dead bodies)
  • Acetylene (fuel used in torches)
  • Ammonia (used in fertilizers)
  • Carbon monoxide (a poisonous gas)

Smoking causes diseases

It’s a proven fact that the earlier people start smoking, the greater their risk of

  • Cancer—many different types
  • Heart attacks or strokes
  • Chronic bronchitis—a serious disease of the lung airways
  • Emphysema—a crippling lung disease

Secondhand smoke can kill others

Even if you don’t smoke, breathing in someone else’s smoke can be deadly too. Secondhand smoke causes about 3,000 deaths from lung cancer and tens of thousands of deaths from heart disease to nonsmoking adults in the United States each year. Secondhand smoke (also known as environmental tobacco smoke) is the smoke a smoker breathes out and that comes from the tip of burning cigarettes, pipes, and cigars.

Smoking is ugly

  • Some teens have said that kissing someone who smokes is like kissing an ashtray.
  • Smoking often makes other people not want to be around you.
  • Smoking stinks. If you smoke you may not smell smoke on you, but other people do. Your car will stink too.
  • Most teens would rather date someone who doesn’t smoke.

Smoking costs a lot of money

Do the math

One pack of cigarettes per day $5
Multiplied by the days in a year x 365
Yearly cost for cigarettes $1,825

That’s almost $2,000 a year that you could be saving or spending on other things like clothes, a car, or something fun!

Nicotine makes tobacco use addictive

Nicotine in tobacco causes people to become addicted much sooner than they expect after they start using. This happens to teens too. You’re addicted if

  • You crave your cigarettes or other tobacco.
  • You feel nervous without your cigarettes.
  • You try to quit using and have trouble doing it.

If you’re already addicted, there’s help available to you. You can successfully quit smoking with help and support. Just ask your doctor or call 1-800-QUIT–NOW (800/784-8669).

1-800-QUIT NOW is a national toll-free telephone counseling resource.

Last Updated
Tobacco: Straight Talk for Teens (Copyright © 2010 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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