Dr. MJ Bazos MD, Patient Handout
Smoking: Facts for Teens
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 cancer.
What’s the real deal with tobacco?
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 cigarettes?
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).
The numbers
Reasons not to smoke
  • 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 can’t smoke
  • 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:
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 patches?
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!
Nicotine Anonymous
American Lung Association