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- American Heart Association: Nicotine Addiction
- Mayo Clinic: 10 Ways to help Teens Stay Smoke-Free
- Mayo Clinic: Secondhand Smoke
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The Centers For Disease Control states that around 23 percent of teens smoke cigarettes. Cigarettes pose not only a health risk with both long and short term use but are highly addictive. The American Heart Association states that nicotine addiction is one of the hardest addictions to break 1. Teens start smoking for several reasons but are generally introduced to it through peers. Understanding some of the problems teens smokers face will allow you to help yourself or others facing this addiction each day.
One of the biggest reasons smoking is so frowned upon is because it can cause a myriad of health problems both short and long term. The American Cancer Society states that in the short term, smoking can interfere with proper breathing techniques and can lead to reduced lung function 2. It can also make respiratory illnesses worse and cause coughing and shortness of breath. It can reduce physical fitness levels which is detrimental to teens who engage in sports and other physical activities daily. Long term tobacco use can cause heart disease, chronic lung problems, vision problems and gum disease.
Nicotine addiction is why teens keep grabbing the next cigarette. The American Heart Association states that nicotine produces changes in the brain that form its addictive qualities 1. When a teen takes his first puff, his body instantly responds internally. Nicotine targets the area of the brain that produces dopamine--a mood altering neurotransmitter and neurohormone that produces an emotional response including pleasure. The other half of the addiction is the withdrawal from nicotine. Withdrawal symptoms such as:
- restlessness can be so overwhelming
- teens reluctantly give in
- causing the addictive cycle to continue
Cost and Legality
Teen Help states that each day 6,000 children under 18 begin smoking each day. While many teens smoke, it is illegal for them to purchase tobacco in most states. Many teens that get caught smoking on public property, especially school, increase their risk for getting expelled and losing their rights as a student. The cost of teen smoking may be higher than those over 18. While on average a pack of cigarettes costs around $5 a pack as of 2010, teens may pay adults extra money to obtain tobacco.
Smokeless Alternative Dangers
Many teens turn to smokeless tobacco as an alternative to cigarettes. This alternative can be more dangerous. Teens face the same discipline from school districts for possession of smokeless tobacco as cigarettes.
Second Hand Smoke Problems
Teens who smoke in front of other teens not only put themselves in harm’s way, they can also harm the health of others. The Mayo Clinic states that secondhand smoke contains a large amount of chemicals that are released into the air from a cigarette such as nickel, cyanide, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde 4. These toxins can enter someone else’s lungs and reduce her oxygen levels, irritate her lungs and eventually lead to heart disease, lung disease and cancer. Passing on secondhand smoke to an infant can cause low birth weight, infection and sudden infant death syndrome 4.
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