Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
Smoking: Facts for
What’s in cigarettes?
Disgusting things that you would never think
about putting in your body. For example, cigarettes contain tar, carbon
monoxide, and chemicals like DDT, arsenic and formaldehyde (a gas used to
preserve dead animals).
The tobacco in cigarettes also contains nicotine
-- the drug that makes smoking addictive. All of these things are bad for your
body. Nicotine raises your risk of heart attack and stroke. Tar and carbon
monoxide cause serious breathing problems. And you know tobacco smoke causes
What’s the real deal with
Tobacco is toxic to your body. It causes more
health problems and early deaths than all illegal drugs combined. On top of
that, tobacco is addictive. This means that once you start using it, your body
starts to need it. The longer you use tobacco, and the more you use, the harder
it is to stop. Everyone who smokes started by “just trying it.”
That’s how the habit and the addiction begin.
Is chewing tobacco as bad as
Saying no to tobacco
Television and radio make it sound easy to
“Just say no” to drugs, alcohol and tobacco. But it may not be so
simple for you. You may be facing pressures from friends who smoke, you may be
stressed out at home, school or work, or you may think smoking is going to make
people like you. Don’t let anyone or anything, whether it’s friends
or cigarette ads, convince you that it’s okay to smoke. If you need help
to say no, there are people who can help you. Talk to someone you can trust,
like a teacher, a school counselor or your family doctor.
Yes. Both cigarettes and chewing tobacco are
toxic (poison) to your body. We hear more about the harm cigarettes do to the
body, but chewing tobacco can also hurt the body. Chewing tobacco can cause
sores and white patches in your mouth, as well as diseases and cancers of the
mouth, gums and throat. Chewing can give you bad breath, discolor your teeth and
cause tooth loss. And one chew contains 15 times the nicotine of a cigarette
(meaning the risk of addiction is much higher).
- 4,500,000 -- The estimated number of children and
adolescents in the United States who smoke.
- 6000 -- The estimated number of people under the
age of 18 who try their first cigarette each day.
- 70 -- The percent of smokers 12 to 17 years old
who wish they had never started smoking.
Reasons not to
- Expensive (over $1000 a year for a pack a day)
- Bad breath
- Stained teeth and hands
- Cough/sore throat
- Problems breathing
- Feeling tired and out of breath
- Wrinkles (more, sooner)
- Arguments with parents, friends
- Cancer risk
- Heart disease risk
- Gum disease risk
- Bad smell in your clothes, hair, skin
- Cigarette burns in your car or on your clothes
- Risk of secondhand smoke to people around you
Things to do
instead of smoking
- Chew sugarless gum
- Call a friend
- Chew sunflower seeds, ground mint leaves or
caffeine-free herbal tea leaves
- Go to a movie or another place where you
- Take a walk or work out
- Remind yourself why you want to quit
It’s never too late to quit.
If you smoke, it’s not too late to make a
change. To quit, you must break your addiction to nicotine and your habit of
smoking. Your habit is the behavior that goes with your tobacco use, such as
lighting a cigarette when you get out of school.
Steps to make quitting easier:
- Pick a stop date. Choose a date 2 to 4
weeks away so you can get ready to quit. If possible, choose a time when things
in your life will change, like when you’re about to start a break from
school. Or just pick a time when you don’t expect any extra stress at
school, work or home. For example, quit after final exams, not during them.
- Make a list of the reasons why you want to
quit. Keep the list on hand so you can look at it when you have a nicotine
- Keep track of where, when and why you
smoke. You may want to make notes for a week or so to know ahead of time
when and why you will crave a cigarette. Plan what you’ll do instead of
smoking (see list above for ideas). You may also want to plan what you’ll
say to people who pressure you to smoke.
- Throw away all of your tobacco. Clean out
your room if you have smoked there. Throw away your ashtrays and lighters --
anything that you connect with your smoking habit.
- Tell your friends that you’re
quitting. Ask them not to pressure you about smoking. Find other things to
do with them besides smoking.
- When your stop date arrives, STOP. Plan
little rewards for yourself for each tobacco-free day, week or month. For
example, buy yourself a new shirt or ask a friend to see a movie with you.
Will I gain weight
when I quit?
Some people gain a few pounds. Other people lose
weight. The main reason some people gain weight is because they eat more food as
a substitute for smoking. You can avoid gaining weight by watching how much you
eat, staying busy and working out.
How will I feel when I quit?
You may feel edgy and irritable. You also may
get angry or upset faster, have trouble concentrating and feel hungrier than
usual. You may have headaches and cough more at first (while your lungs are
clearing out). All of these can be symptoms of withdrawal from nicotine. Keep in
mind that the worst symptoms will be over in a few days. However, you may still
have cravings for tobacco. Those cravings have less to do with nicotine
addiction and more to do with the habit of smoking.
What about nicotine gum or nicotine
These products may help you if you feel like you
can’t quit on your own or you have serious withdrawal symptoms. But
don’t use the gum or patch without talking to your doctor first.
These products were not designed for teens and could make you sick if you use
them the wrong way. You may need to follow special instructions.
What if I can’t quit?
You can quit. Most people try to quit more than
once before they succeed. So don’t give up if you slip. Just don’t
go overboard and buy a whole pack of cigarettes. Instead, think about why you
want to quit. Think about what happened to make you slip. Figure out how
you’ll handle that situation differently next time. Then recommit yourself
to quitting. You can do it!