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Cigarette smoking during childhood and adolescence produces significant health problems among young people, including respiratory illnesses, decreased physical fitness and potential effects on the rate of lung growth and maximum lung function.

Cigarette smoking is the number one cause of preventable disease and death worldwide. Smoking-related diseases claim over 393,000 American lives each year and it also impacts heavily on the cost of health care of every country in the world.

Cigarette smoke contains over 4,800 chemicals, 69 of which are known to cause cancer. Smoking is directly responsible for approximately 90 percent of lung cancer deaths and approximately 80-90 percent of COPD (emphysema and chronic bronchitis) deaths.

Among adults who have ever smoked, 70% started smoking regularly at age 18 or younger, and 86% at age 21 or younger.  Among current smokers, chronic lung disease accounts for 73 percent of smoking-related conditions. Even among smokers who have quit chronic lung disease accounts for 50 percent of smoking-related conditions.

Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body, and is a main cause of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema). It is also a cause of coronary heart disease, stroke and a host of other cancers and diseases.


Nicotine is a highly addictive stimulant found in tobacco. This drug is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream when smoked.

Nicotine is typically smoked in cigarettes or cigars. Some people put a pinch of tobacco (called chewing or smokeless tobacco) into their mouths and absorb nicotine through the lining of their mouths.

Effects & Dangers:
Physical effects include rapid heartbeat, increased blood pressure, shortness of breath, and a greater likelihood of colds and flu.

Nicotine users have an increased risk for lung and heart disease and stroke. Smokers also have bad breath and yellowed teeth. Chewing tobacco users may suffer from cancers of the mouth and neck.

Withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, anger, restlessness, andinsomnia.

Nicotine is as addictive as heroin or cocaine, which makes it extremely difficult to quit. Those who start smoking before the age of 21 have the hardest time breaking the habit.

Why Children Start

A large percentage of adult smokers began smoking before they turned 18. Most smokers try their first cigarette around the age of 11, and many are addicted by the time they turn 14.  So why do kids start smoking in the first place?  

  • Their parents are smokers.

  • Peer pressure – their friends encourage them to try cigarettes, and to keep smoking.

  • They see smoking as a way of rebelling and showing independence.

  • They think that everyone else is smoking, and that they should  too.

Tobacco advertising targets teenagers

Cigarette companies shape their advertising campaigns to portray smokers as cool, sexy, independent, fun, attractive, and living on the edge.  Images that are appealing to many teens. As a result, they try smoking and many get hooked.

Tips For Parents

Even though smoking is glamorized in movies and television, parents are the most important influence in their children’s lives.

Be a role model and do not smoke.  Parents who smoke are more likely to have children who smoke.

Tell your children honestly and directly that you don’t want them to smoke cigarettes. Give them clear, consistent messages about the risks of smoking.

Start talking to your children about smoking when they are five or six years old and continue through their high school years.  Many children start smoking at age 11 and some are addicted by age 14. Explain the health dangers, as well as the unpleasant physical aspects (such as bad breath, discoloured teeth and nails), of smoking.

If you’re a parent who smokes, the best thing you can do is to quit. Talk to your children about how difficult it is to quit smoking and how much easier it would have been if you’d never started smoking. In the meantime, don’t smoke around your children and don’t ever let them have any of your cigarettes.

Establish a smoke-free policy in your home. Don’t allow anyone to smoke indoors at any time.   Make sure that the events that your children attend are smoke-free.

Know if your children have any friends that smoke. Talk with your children about ways to refuse a cigarette.

If your child has already started smoking, your first reaction may be to order him/her to quit. Teen smokers become addicted to nicotine very quickly, and that can make quitting very difficult. Be patient and  as your child goes through the quitting process.   Get professional help if you think it is required.

If you caught your teen smoking, try to avoid threats and ultimatums. Ask a few questions and find out why your child is smoking; he or she may want to be accepted by a peer group, or want your attention.  Talk about what changes can be made in his or her life to help your child stop smoking.

As you talk to your child about their smoking, point out that he or she is probably already addicted to nicotine. The tobacco industry spends billions of dollars each year to make sure their products are as appealing and as addictive as possible. Ask your child to think about how they’ve been manipulated and used by tobacco companies. This realization makes many teen smokers angry and can help their motivation to quit.

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