Teens and Smoking: A Toxic Addiction

It’s much easier to not start smoking than to quit. That’s because nicotine, a chemical in tobacco, is as addictive as cocaine or heroin. Being addicted is like being chained to your cigarettes. You get cravings for smoking that you can’t control. You need to have your cigarettes with you all the time. Think about this: Have you ever seen people smoking outside in the rain or cold? They don’t do that because it’s fun. They do it because they’re addicted.

One package, many poisons

Just one cigarette contains thousands of chemicals. Below are a few of the things you inhale when you smoke.

  • Cyanide, a deadly poison

  • Ammonia, used to clean toilet bowls

  • Benzene, used to make pesticides

  • Toluene, used in fingernail polish remover

  • Carbon monoxide, the stuff in car exhaust

  • Formaldehyde, used to preserve dead things in jars

Smoking harms your body and your health

  • Your looks. Smoking is terrible for your looks. It wrinkles your skin. It makes your teeth and fingers yellow. It also makes your hair, breath, and clothes smell awful. Many people say they wouldn’t date a smoker. After all, who wants to kiss someone who smells like an ashtray?

  • Your health. When you smoke, you put black spots in your lungs. You start coughing up mucus. It strains your heart. You get sick more often.  You can have a stroke or heart attack. And in case you haven’t heard it a million times, smoking can give you cancer. Not just in your lungs, but on your lips, tongue—even on your voice box. Sound good?

No good reason to start

Below are some reasons people say they start smoking. Ask yourself if they make sense.

  • “I heard it makes you thin.” Is everyone who smokes thin? Of course not! Don’t try to lose weight by inhaling poison. That’s just crazy.

  • “Smoking relaxes me.” The main thing smoking relaxes is the craving you get from being addicted. Smoking actually narrows blood vessels in your brain. Sound relaxing?!

  • “Smoking seems pretty cool.” Only if you think having your breath stink and coughing up brown mucus is cool.

  • “My friends smoke.” If friends offer you a cigarette, tell them you don’t want one. Tell them you’d rather do something else. Tell them your throat is sore. Tell them whatever. But don’t smoke just to fit in.

  • “There’s nothing else to do.” Really? What about playing sports or shopping for clothes? What about playing music, reading a book, or writing in a journal? Or would you rather spend the day smelling like smoke and hacking up mucus. That’s not cool. It’s gross.

To learn more

If you want to learn more about tobacco addiction, visit these websites:

  • Foundation for a Smokefree America  www.notobacco.org

  • Youth Tobacco Prevention  www.cdc.gov/tobacco/youth/index.htm

  • American Legacy Foundation Truth Campaign  www.thetruth.com


For more information

  • smokefree.gov/talk-to-an-expert

  • teen.smokefree.gov

  • National Cancer Institute Smoking Quitline: 877-44U-QUIT (877-448-7848)



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