Prather Pediatric and Allergy Center - Ask Doctor Brent

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Title: Why Teenagers Shouldn't Smoke

Category: Child Care


There are several obvious reasons why teenagers shouldn't start smoking and perhaps a review of some of these reasons will encourage parents to go the extra mile in discouraging them. When you watch someone who is just starting to smoke you notice that their eyes get red, they cough and they actually look sick. This is a pretty good tip that smoking is bad for your health. We all know that tobacco is a leading cause of cancer, particularly lung cancer. It also doubles one's chance of developing heart disease later on in life. It is also a major cause of chronic bronchitis and emphysema. In pregnant women, smoking increases the risk of premature babies and small term babies and increases infant death rate. Finally, smoking is even bad for those in the same room or environment as a smoker. The nicotine absorbed by being in the same room as a smoker (also, carbon monoxide and other smoke ingredients) is very harmful to anyone close to a smoker. In fact, ear infections, asthma and upper respiratory infections go up significantly in children whose parents smoke and in spouses of smokers. Those who passively inhale smoke also (like a smoker) have a much higher risk of lung and heart disease and cancer.

For teenagers who are very conscious of their image and how they come across to others, smoking is definitely unattractive. In a poll done by the American Cancer Society, almost 80% of boys between the ages of 12 and 17 said they didn't want to date someone who smokes. Seventy percent of girls said they felt the same way. Smoking causes bad breath and stained teeth and it causes a bad odor in your clothes. Even chewing tobacco can be quite dangerous to one's health. While smoking tobacco causes lung cancer, chewing tobacco causes a great increase in cancer of the cheeks, gums and throat. Also chewing tobacco affects one's sense of taste and increases gum disease significantly, ultimately leading to loss of teeth. A person who chews tobacco has an unhealthy mouth and is prone to all sorts of sores and a slow healing process in the mouth.

Smoking tobacco is one of the worst addictions known. It is extremely hard to quit smoking once you are hooked. It is obviously better to never get started and thus never have to fight the discouraging fight to quit smoking. Smoking is also very expensive and, besides the financial cost of the cigarettes, causes lots of missed work and school absences because of the sickness related to it.

Studies show that teenagers who start smoking are usually in homes where a parent or an older brother or sister smokes. About 90% of smokers start as teenagers. Presently, about 20 % of American high school senior girls are smoking and about 16% of boys. Almost 70% of high schoolers have tried smoking at least once. This is at least lower than statistics from ten years ago. If you have started smoking, it is possible to stop. It will take tremendous will power, determination and support from family and friends. Ultimately, the decision to stop is up to you. There are several aids available such as Nicorette gum and a number of therapeutic programs to help smokers stop. Check with your local doctor or Cancer Society or Lung Association to see which programs are available in your area. Both of our local hospitals in Opelousas can help you in this regard through their respiratory departments. To quote one teenage girl, "Kissing a boy who smokes is like kissing a dirty ashtray". So please, teenagers and parents, don't try smoking if you haven't already and, if you have started, seek help and begin the process to stop NOW!