Smoking is one of the worst things kids or adults can do to their bodies. Yet every single day nearly 4,400 kids between the ages 12 and 17 start smoking. Why? There's more than just one simple answer. Some kids may start smoking just because they're curious. Others may like the idea of doing something dangerous - something grown-ups don't want them to do. Still others might have grown up around lots of people
who smoke and they might think it's the way to act like an adult
that smoking and tobacco use can cause cancer and heart disease. That's true, but sometimes kids can't really think that far into the future to worry about an illness they might not get for 20 years. So let's talk about the problems that might affect kids more quickly:
more colds and coughs
difficulty keeping up with friends when playing sports
empty wallet - cigarettes and tobacco products are very expensive!
Let's find out more about cigarettes and tobacco.
What Are Smoking and Smokeless Tobacco?
Tobacco (say: tuh-ba-ko) is a plant that can be smoked in cigarettes, pipes, or cigars. It's the same plant that's in smokeless tobacco, known as dip, chew, snuff, spit, or chewing tobacco. Smokeless tobacco is not lit and breathed in like tobacco in cigarettes, pipes, and cigars. Instead, smokeless tobacco is put between the lip and gum and sucked on inside the mouth.
Tobacco contains nicotine (say: nih-kuh-teen), a chemical that causes a tingly or good feeling - but that feeling only lasts for a little while. Nicotine is also addictive (say: uh-dik-tiv). That means that if you start to use nicotine, your body and mind will become so used to it that you'll need to have it just to feel OK.
Anyone who starts smoking could become addicted to it. If you're addicted to something, it's very hard to stop doing it, even if you want to. That's why so many adults have a hard time quitting smoking.
Why Is It So Bad for You?
Cigarettes and smokeless tobacco kill hundreds of thousands of Americans every year. You know those rubber bracelets that were created to bring attention to different causes? The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids created a red one with the number 1,200 on it. Why 1,200? That's the number of people who die each day due to smoking.
The nicotine and other poisonous chemicals in tobacco cause lots of diseases, like heart problems and some kinds of cancer. If you smoke, you hurt your lungs and heart each time you light up. It also can make it more difficult for blood to move around in the body, so smokers may feel tired and cranky. The longer you smoke, the worse the damage becomes.
The Other Cost of Smoking
Using tobacco eats up a lot of money, too. A pack of cigarettes costs $4, on average. That means, even if you buy just one pack a week, you'll spend $208 in a year. Some people smoke a pack a day, which adds up to $1,460! That's a lot of CDs, computer games, and clothes.
What's It Like?
Usually, people don't like smoking or chewing tobacco at first. Your body is smart, and it knows when it's being poisoned. When people try smoking for the first time, they often cough a lot and feel pain or burning in their throat and lungs. This is your lungs' way of trying to protect you and tell you to keep them smoke free. Also, many people say that they feel sick to their stomachs or even throw up. If someone accidentally swallows chewing tobacco, they may be sick for hours. Yuck.
What if My Friend Smokes?
If you have a friend who smokes or uses tobacco, you can help him or her by encouraging the person to quit. Here are some reasons you can mention:
It will hurt his or her health.
It will make his or her breath stinky.
It will turn his or her teeth yellow.
It will give him or her less endurance when running or playing sports.
It's illegal to buy cigarettes when you're underage.
If you think it will help, you could print out articles like this one for your friend. He or she may be interested in learning more about the dangers of smoking. But the person also could be a little angry. No one likes to hear that they're doing something wrong. If your friend gets upset, don't push it too much. In time, he or she may realize you are right.
In the meantime, it could help to talk with a parent or a school counselor to say you're worried about your friend. When your friend is ready, a grown-up can help him or her quit for good. If your friend decides to quit, support him or her. You might say it's time to kick some butts!