So why are people still lighting up? The answer, in a word, is addiction.
Once You Start, It's Hard to Stop
Smoking is a hard habit to break because tobacco contains the very addictive chemical
nicotine. As with heroin or other addictive drugs, the body and mind quickly get used
to the nicotine in cigarettes. Soon, a person needs to have it just to feel normal.
People start smoking for different reasons. Some think it looks cool. Others start
because their family members or friends smoke. Almost all adult tobacco users started
before they were 18 years old. Most never expected to become addicted. That's why
it's so much easier to not start smoking at all.
What About E-Cigarettes and Hookahs?
It's not only cigarettes that people get hooked on.
Also beware of vaping. Battery-operated
e-cigarettes use cartridges filled with nicotine, flavorings, and other harmful chemicals
and turn them into a vapor that's inhaled by the user.
Some people think that e-cigarettes are safer than regular cigarettes because they
don't contain tobacco. But the other ingredients in them are dangerous too. In fact,
there are reports of serious lung damage and even death among people who use e-cigarettes.
So health experts strongly warn against using them.
Hookahs are water pipes used to smoke tobacco through
a hose with a mouthpiece. Some people think they're safer than cigarettes because
the smoke cools when it passes through the water. But look at the black gunk that
builds up in a hookah hose. Some of that gets into users' mouths and lungs. And since
they don't have filters and people often use them for long periods, their health risks
might be even greater. Hookahs are usually shared, so there's the added risk from
germs being passed around along
with the pipe.
How Can Smoking Affect Health?
Many of the chemicals in cigarettes, like nicotine and cyanide, are poisons that
can kill in high doses. The body is smart. It goes on the defense when it's being
poisoned. First-time smokers often feel pain or burning in their throat and lungs,
and some even throw up the first few times they try tobacco.
Over time, smoking leads to health problems such as:
many types of cancer — including lung, throat, stomach, and bladder cancer
Smoking can affect sexual health in both men and women. Girls who smoke and are
on hormone-based birth control methods
like the Pill, the
patch, or the ring have
a higher risk of serious health problems, like heart attacks. And if a woman wants
to get pregnant, smoking can make that harder.
Besides these long-term problems, the chemicals in cigarettes and other products
also can affect the body quickly. Teen smokers can have many of these problems:
Bad breath. Cigarettes leave smokers with a condition called
halitosis, or lasting bad breath.
Bad-smelling clothes and hair. The smell of stale smoke tends
to last — not just on people's clothing, but on their hair, furniture, and cars.
It's hard to get the smell of smoke out.
Trouble keeping up in sports. Smokers usually can't compete well
with nonsmokers. Physical effects of smoking, like a fast heartbeat, decreased circulation,
and shortness of breath, harm sports performance.
Greater risk of injury and slower healing time. Smoking hurts
the body's ability to make collagen. So common sports injuries, such as damage to
tendons and ligaments, will heal more slowly in smokers than nonsmokers.
Increased risk of illness. Studies show that smokers get sick
more with colds, flu,
bronchitis, and pneumonia than nonsmokers. And people with some health conditions,
like asthma, get sicker if they
smoke (and often if they're just around people who smoke). Teens who smoke as a way
to manage their weight often light up instead of eating. So their bodies can lack
the nutrients needed to grow, develop, and fight off illness well.
Kicking Butts and Staying Smoke-Free
All forms of tobacco — cigarettes, pipes, cigars, hookahs, and smokeless
tobacco — are health hazards. It doesn't help to substitute products that
are advertised as better for you, such as e-cigarettes or filtered or low-tar cigarettes.
The only thing that really helps is staying away from all these products. This
isn't always easy, especially if everyone around you is smoking or vaping. It may
help to have your reasons for saying no ready for times you may feel the pressure.
Try "I just don't like it" or "I want to stay in shape for soccer" (or football, basketball,
or other sport).
If you do smoke or vape and want to quit, you have lots of information and support
available. Different approaches to quitting work for different people. For some, quitting
cold turkey is best. Others find that a slower approach is the way to go. Some people
find that it helps to go to a support group especially for teens.
You also can find information and support online at: