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Adolescent Smoking

Smoking is a major problem among adolescents. Smoking

among adolescents is a major concern because smoking long term
poses many health hazards. Most all adolescents know what the long
term effects of smoking are and many do not care, because they are
not concerned with what might happen to them forty or fifty years
down the road. Adolescent smoking is a global issue because there
is not a single country around the world where teens are not smoking.
Smoking affects all subsets of adolescents. According to, white males are more likely to smoke than
any other race or gender. Also according to the National Cancer
institute adolescents who participate in sports are less likely to smoke
and adolescents living poverty are more likely to smoke.


Why do adolescents smoke?

Effects of Smoking
Is there a reason the legal smoking age is 18?
Gateway Drug
Smoking Rates
Smoking is Addictive
More Info and References

Why Do Adolescents Smoke? 
Their Parents Smoke

Adolescents that live in a house where one or both of their parents (or
other family members) smoke are more likely to become a smoker then
other adolescents. Adolescents in these situations may feel that all adults
smoke and they begin to smoke because it will make them look and feel like
they are grown-up.

Their Friends Smoke

Many adolescents start smoking because their friends smoke and they want
to fit in. Adolescents in this situation all have to deal with “peer pressure”
and most will be asked by their friend at one time or another to smoke with
him/her. Since everyone wants to fit in with their friends they will most
likely be too afraid to say no when their friend asks them.

Could Help Them Lose Weight

Females might begin smoking because they are conscious of their weight.
The main chemical in tobacco is nicotine, a stimulant, which causes your
heart to beat more rapidly. This causes weight loss and cigarettes also may
cause a decreased appetite. Therefore many female adolescents smoke
because they feel it will help them lose weight, and often do not consider the
harm they are doing to their bodies.                  
Effects of Smoking 

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Yellow Teeth  
Hair and Clothes Smell  
Affects Lung Power  

After smoking the smoker’s teeth become stained yellow (from tar and other
chemicals in tobacco) and the smoker’s hair and clothes smell badly of
smoke. Smoking also affects lung power. Adolescent smokers that are also
involved in athletics are unable to participate on a high level because of their
smoking. They are not able to participate at a high level because smoking
causes an increased heart rate, caused by nicotine (a stimulant), and
therefore smokers who try to participate in sports have an increased loss of
breath and lose endurance.

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Heart Disease
Lung Cancer
Smoke from tobacco contains many toxins such as nicotine and cyanide
which are poisonous to the human body. Therefore each time a smoker
smokes tobacco they are slowly poisoning themselves, and this fact is what
leads to health problems after smoking for a long period of time.
Is There a Reason the Legal Smoking Age is 

Yes. An adolescent’s body and lungs are not fully developed until he/she
turns 18 (some adolescents still are not fully developed until after they turn
18). Therefore if an adolescent begins smoking before their 18th birthday
there is a high risk that their lungs will never fully develop and smoking may
stunt the growth of the rest of their body. Also adolescent smokers are at a
much greater risk to develop heart disease and lung cancer than smokers
who begin smoking as adults (Santrock 452). According to The American
Lung Association one-third of all smokers had their first cigarette before
the age of fourteen and this calls for great concern.


Tobacco is Classified as a “Gateway” 
The American Lung Association states that adolescents (12-17 years
old) who reported having smoked in the past thirty days were three
times as likely to use alcohol, eight times as likely to smoke
marijuana, and twenty-two times as likely to use cocaine, within that
time period than adolescents whom have not smoked tobacco in the
past thirty days.

Tobacco is classified as a “gateway” drug and therefore adolescent

smokers are more likely to begin drinking alcohol and using illicit drug
than non-smoking adolescents. While smoking tobacco the smoker will
feel a “high” such as a tingly feeling, feeling light headed, and/or feeling
more relaxed. This “high” does not last for long and as the smoker
becomes addicted they are smoking so much that they do not feel any
pleasure in smoking. Therefore this leads to the adolescent drinking
alcohol, smoking marijuana, using cocaine, and other illicit drugs.
Adolescent Smoking Rates Today 
Rates peaked in 1997 when thirty-six percent of twelfth graders,
thirty percent of tenth graders, and twenty percent of eighth
graders reported smoking cigarettes in the past thirty days.

In 2004 only twenty-two percent of twelfth graders, seventeen

percent of tenth graders, and ten percent of eighth graders reported
smoking cigarettes in the past thirty days (Santrock 452).

Trends in Adolescent Cigarette Smoking

Adolescent Smokers

Percentage of



8th Grade Adolescents 10th Grade Adolescents 12th Grade Adolescents

Trends in Adolescent Cigarette Smoking from 1991 to 2004 (Santrock 452)

The 1998 Master Settlement agreement prohibited tobacco companies

from advertising on television, buses, and many magazines. They
were prohibited from advertising anywhere that may target
adolescents under the age of 18. Today the ads seen in magazines or
on television are ads that educate adolescents on reasons not to smoke
tobacco. Therefore this is a major reason why the rates of adolescent
smokers have decreased so significantly. Though the rates of
adolescent smokers have decreased steadily since 1997 there are still
grounds for concern as these rates are beginning to level off.
Smoking is Highly Addictive 
This is because a main ingredient in tobacco is nicotine and nicotine is
highly addictive. The American Lung association states that in the year
2000 59 percent of high school students and 60 percent of middle school
students, who smoked, seriously tried to quit smoking. Many of these
students were unable to quit because their body needs the nicotine in order to
feel normal (definition of addiction).

 Want more info on Smoking? 
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American Lung Association

Kids Health on Smoking and Teens

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Get help as soon as possible because it is very hard to quit all on your own.
Many teens report that they have tried to quit but have been unsuccessful
because as said before SMOKING TOBACCO IS HIGHLY
ADDICTIVE. If you want to quit smoking first look to your parents,
friends, or someone you are close to for support. There are also many
products such as nicotine gum or nicotine patches that you can find at most
stores in your area. Another thing to try is whenever you feel the craving to
smoke try replacing it by eating a piece of hard candy or eating a sucker (this
will help you psychologically overcome your craving The sites listed above
can also give you ideas on ways you can quit.
American Lung Association. November 2004. 1 March 2006

National Cancer Institute. April 2002. 1 March 2006

Santrock, John W. Adolescence. Eleventh Edition. New York: McGraw-

Hill, 2005. Pgs. 452-454.

Teen Health. Neil Izenberg. June 2004. 27 February 2006