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Smoking: Straight Talk for Teens

Most teens don’t smoke

The good news is that about 80% of teenagers in the United States don’t smoke. However, consider the following facts:

  • Nearly 90% of all smokers started when they were teenagers
  • Today, 4.5 million young people, aged 12-17, smoke. Another 3,000 start smoking every day – more than 1 million teens each year.
  • One-third of these new smokers will eventually die of smoking-related diseases.
  • Young people are more likely to smoke if they live with someone who smokes.

Smoking harms the body

The chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause a lot of damage to the body. They reduce the amount of oxygen delivered to your body. They harm the lungs by damaging the tiny hairs (called cilia) that help sweep out dirt and waste products. Nicotine, a drug contained in tobacco, causes the heart to beat faster and work less effectively. Early warning signs that smoking is harming you include: dizziness, coughing, and burning of the eyes, nose and throat. Chewing tobacco and snuff “dip” are also dangerous to health.

The nicotine in tobacco is extremely toxic. A few drops of pure nicotine, if taken all at once, are enough to kill the average person. Smokers take nicotine in small amounts, allowing the body time to break down the nicotine and get rid of it, which is why cigarettes don’t kill instantly. Each time you take a puff on a cigarette, you also inhale over 4,000 other chemicals. Of these chemicals, 400 are toxic and about 40 are known to cause cancer. Some of the chemicals found in cigarette smoke include: cyanide (deadly poison), benzene (used in making paints and dyes), formaldehyde (embalming fluid), acetylene (fuel used in torches), ammonia (used in fertilizers), and carbon monoxide (poisonous gas).

In the long run, your body pays a heavy price for smoking:

  • Smokers get cancer.
  • Smoking doubles the changes of heart disease.
  • Smoking is the main cause of chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
  • Smoking by pregnant women increases the risk of premature birth, underweight babies, and infant deaths.
  • Smoking harms nonsmokers as well as smokers.

Smoking is addictive

It takes only a short time for cigarette users to become addicted to nicotine. If you are a smoker, you will know you are addicted when you find yourself craving cigarettes and feeling nervous without them. You will really know you are addicted when you try to quit smoking and have trouble doing it. Quitting can be hard and it can be a long process. Often people try several times before they succeed. The longer you smoke, the harder it is to stop.

Smoking is expensive

The cost of smoking adds up. For example: if a pack of cigarettes costs $2.50 and you smoke a pack a day, you are spending over $900 a year just on cigarettes instead of on CDs, clothes, or saving for a car. Smoking also costs you a lot in other ways – getting sick, missing school or work, and having increased medical bills. That’s a high price to pay for something that isn’t good for you in the first place.

There is help

Quitting is possible, and is a must if you want the best for yourself and those around you. Many young people think they are not at risk from smoking. However, if you ignore the warning signs and continue to smoke, your body will change. Your body will eventually get used to the smoke. You won’t cough or feel sick every time you puff on a cigarette. Yet the damage to your body continues and worsens each time you smoke. If order to quit, you’ll need support from your family and friends. Try again if you don’t succeed the first time. Deciding to stop is up to you. Once you make that commitment, you can get help from you pediatrician or school health office.

Information on this site is intended for Angel Kids Pediatrics patients only. Always consult your doctor before beginning, modifying, or discontinuing any treatment plan.

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