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Smoking and Teens

Why do some teens smoke?

There are many reasons teens choose to smoke. You may choose to smoke for the following reasons:

  • Peer pressure. You are trying to find a way to fit in with a group of friends, a boyfriend, or a girlfriend.
  • Entertainment. You think it is a fun activity with friends or at parties.
  • Curiosity. You want to see what it is like.
  • Rebellion. You do it because you want to make your own decisions and you know that your family or others do not want you to smoke.
  • Stress. You think it will help you relax and temporarily escape from a stressful situation.

Very few people start smoking after they are 20. Most smokers started smoking when they were teens. The main problem with smoking is that it becomes very hard to stop. Before you light up, don't ask yourself, "Do I want to try smoking?" The question you need to ask yourself is "Do I want to be a smoker or a non-smoker?" You can't be both.

How will smoking change my life today?

You may temporarily get what you are seeking. You may become accepted with a group of friends. You may feel more like an adult, or a rebel, or that you can be more fun at parties. The problem is that once you start smoking the addiction also starts. Your body will start craving and needing cigarettes. You won't be in control of smoking -- smoking will control you. Smoking will start to interfere with every aspect of your life. When you go out to concerts, dinner, dances, and movies, you will always be thinking, "Where can I go to smoke?" You may even have to leave in the middle of a movie or an event to go smoke because your addiction is so strong.

Cigarettes do not smell good. The nicotine in the cigarette is what your body is craving, not the smell of the cigarette. The smell will get into your clothes, your car, and your room -- not to mention your breath. Even if you get used to the smell, non-smokers do not often tolerate the smell very well. Non-smokers can also be harmed by breathing in your smoke and will likely not want to be around you while you are smoking. This means you will be forced to smoke outside (even when it is cold) or in a separate area away from other people. Or, you won't be allowed to smoke in certain places at all. Sadly, you will find yourself deciding not to go to certain events just because you cannot smoke there.

Also, cigarettes will cost you a lot of money. Cigarettes are often between $3.00 and $4.00 per pack. An average smoker spends $1600 to $2000 a year on cigarettes. How are you going to pay for that? You can probably think of many other things you would like to spend your money on.

How will smoking change my life in the future?

Most adults who smoke will tell you that they wish they would have never started. They probably started smoking when they were teens for the same reasons many teens start smoking today. Your parents or other adults aren't trying to prevent you from smoking to ruin your fun. They know that it will make your life much more difficult in the future.

Teens often don't care about how smoking will affect them when they are older. However, you should be aware of the many long-term health problems that come from smoking:

  • About half a million people die every year from cancer, breathing problems, stroke, and other health problems caused by smoking.
  • Almost everyone who has lung cancer is either a smoker or lives with a smoker.
  • Smoking is the major cause of emphysema, a debilitating lung disease that makes you wheeze and pant and be unable to catch your breath.
  • Smokers have a two times greater risk of fatal heart disease and are more likely to have a stroke, which is a sudden damage to the brain from a blood vessel problem.
  • Smokers have a greater chance of having peptic ulcers, bone fractures, sleep disorders and more colds.
  • Smoking affects pregnant women and their unborn children. Smoking mothers have a greater risk of miscarriage and stillbirth.

The more cigarettes a person smokes each day, the greater the risk of disease. Fortunately when a smoker stops smoking, many of the above risks decrease.

How can I quit smoking?

If you smoke, talk with your health care provider or counselor about finding a way to quit. Be committed to your decision. Set a quit date and get support from friends and family. Quitting is difficult, so don't be hard on yourself if you make a mistake. Try to stick with quitting and don't give up. If you have friends that smoke, one of the greatest contributions you can make to their life is to help them stop smoking.

Developed by McKesson Provider Technologies.
Published by McKesson Provider Technologies.
Last modified: 2006-10-26
Last reviewed: 2006-08-22
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright 2006 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved.
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