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Smoking Facts for Teens

What's in cigarettes?
Cigarettes contain 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?
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?
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.

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.

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

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 craving.
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 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!



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