your parents were young, people could buy cigarettes and smoke pretty
much anywhere — even in hospitals! Ads for cigarettes were all
over the place. Today we're more aware about how bad smoking is for
our health. Smoking is restricted or banned in almost all public places
and cigarette companies are no longer allowed to advertise on TV,
radio, and in many magazines.
Almost everyone knows that smoking causes cancer, emphysema, and heart
disease; that it can shorten your life by 10 years or more; and that
the habit can cost a smoker thousands of dollars a year. So how come
people are still lighting up? The answer, in a word, is addiction.
You Start, It's Hard to Stop
Smoking is a hard habit to break because tobacco contains nicotine,
which is highly addictive. Like heroin or other addictive drugs, the
body and mind quickly become so used to the nicotine in cigarettes
that a person needs to have it just to feel normal.
People start smoking for a variety of different reasons. Some think
it looks cool. Others start because their family members or friends
smoke. Statistics show that about 9 out of 10 tobacco users start
before they're 18 years old. Most adults who started smoking in their
teens never expected to become addicted. That's why people say it's
just so much easier to not start smoking at all.
How Smoking Affects Your Health
There are no physical reasons to start smoking. The body doesn't need
tobacco the way it needs food, water, sleep, and exercise. In fact,
many of the chemicals in cigarettes, like nicotine and cyanide, are
actually poisons that can kill in high enough doses.
The body is smart. It goes on the defence when it's being poisoned.
For this reason, many people find it takes several tries to get started
smoking: First-time smokers often feel pain or burning in the throat
and lungs, and some people feel sick or even throw up the first few
times they try tobacco.
consequences of this poisoning happen gradually. Over the long term,
smoking leads people to develop health problems like cancer, emphysema
(breakdown of lung tissue), organ damage, and heart disease. These diseases
limit a person's ability to be normally active — and can be fatal.
Each time a smoker lights up, that single cigarette takes about 5 to
20 minutes off the person's life.
not only develop wrinkles and yellow teeth, they also lose bone density,
which increases their risk of osteoporosis, a condition that causes
older people to become bent over and their bones to break more easily.
Smokers also tend to be less active than non-smokers because smoking
affects lung power.
Smoking can also cause fertility problems and can impact sexual health
in both men and women. Girls who are on the pill or other hormone-based
methods of birth control (like the patch or the ring) increase their
risk of serious health problems, such as heart attacks, if they smoke.
The consequences of smoking may seem very far off, but long-term health
problems aren't the only hazard of smoking. Nicotine and the other toxins
in cigarettes, cigars, and pipes can affect a person's body quickly,
which means that teen smokers experience many of these problems:
• Bad skin. Because smoking restricts blood vessels, it can prevent
oxygen and nutrients from getting to the skin — which is why smokers
often appear pale and unhealthy. An Italian study also linked smoking
to an increased risk of getting a type of skin rash called psoriasis.
• Bad breath. Cigarettes leave smokers with a condition called
halitosis, or persistent bad breath.
• Bad-smelling clothes and hair. The smell of stale smoke tends
to linger — not just on people's clothing, but on their hair,
furniture, and cars. And it's often hard to get the smell of smoke out.
• Reduced athletic performance. People who smoke usually can't
compete with non-smoking peers because the physical effects of smoking
(like rapid heartbeat, decreased circulation, and shortness of breath)
impair sports performance.
• Greater risk of injury and slower healing time. Smoking affects
the body's ability to produce collagen, so common sports injuries, such
as damage to tendons and ligaments will heal more slowly in smokers
• Increased risk of illness. Studies show that smokers get more
colds, flu, bronchitis, and pneumonia than non-smokers. And people with
certain health conditions, like asthma, become more sick if they smoke
(and often if they're just around people who smoke). Because teens who
smoke as a way to manage weight often light up instead of eating, their
bodies lack the nutrients they need to grow, develop, and fight off