The Effects of Smoking on Teens

Smoking cigarettes is back in style among teens but hopefully not for long. The teen years are when 90 percent of adult smokers had their first puff of a cigarette—and nearly 3,800 teens try their first cigarette each day. And one out of every three new smokers will die earlier than the rest because of smoking-related issues, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Smoking is also likely to cause depression, anxiety and panic attacks in your teen.

Some physical side effects of smoking cigarettes include:

  • Bad breath and clothes that smells like stale cigarettes
  • Yellow teeth
  • Increased risk of lung cancer and other lung and heart problems
  • Loss of taste and smell
  • Altered brain function: the greater a teen’s addiction to nicotine, the less active the prefrontal cortex is


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It is common for teens to start smoking because of peer pressure as an attempt to fit in or because they think it looks cool (many of their favorite movie stars smoke in films and advertisements, which makes it look sexy and mature). Like other addictive drugs, nicotine increases the release of dopamine—a naturally produced feel-good-drug—in the brain. And teens are blowing a lot of money on cigarettes—it costs roughly $2,000 USD a year to pay for a pack-a-day habit. That’s a lot of allowance money.

Smokeless Tobacco Products

Smokeless tobacco products are becoming increasingly popular, and even though they are not inhaled, they still put your teen’s health at risk. These new products, which are targeted towards teens, resemble lozenges or mint/breath strips (dissolving on the tongue), or snus—dried snuff packaged in a teabag-like sachet, according to the Surgeon General. It is easier for teens to sneak in a “smoke” break with these tiny, smokeless lozenges, and will use them in places—like schools and indoor areas—where smoking is banned. These products still contain nicotine and are addictive.

There are lots of different tools available to help people quit smoking. Do your research and find what is best for you, or consult a doctor or school counselor to find out more information about options to kick the habit.

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