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Attention Teens: Smoking is Hurting Your Health Right Now

Most young people who smoke have heard that smoking causes all kinds of bad diseases, like lung cancer and emphysema. But they don’t worry too much about it, because they’ve also heard those are the kinds of diseases you don’t get until you get old.

Well, we’ll have to agree. Most of the really bad smoking-related diseases are diseases that people get when they get older. But here’s what you don’t hear so much about: smoking starts causing the health problems that can lead to those bad diseases almost as soon as someone takes that first puff from a cigarette! And that’s not all. There are lots of other health problems that crop up right away too. Take a look:

  • Cigarette smokers can’t breath as well as people who don’t smoke, no matter how old they are. For example, teens who smoke are three times as likely as nonsmokers to become short of breath. That means if you’re in athletics or dance or any other extracurricular activity where being in shape is important, you can’t compete as well as your friends who don’t smoke. No amount of training can make up the difference.
  • The damage to the heart and blood vessels caused by smoking can be found in teens who smoke, even though they don’t have any symptoms right now. For example, the resting heart rate of teens who smoke is about two or three beats per minute faster than in teens who don’t smoke. Doesn’t sound like much, but this damage is the same damage that builds up over time and causes heart attacks and strokes.
  • Teens who smoke are more likely than those who don’t to go on to engage in additional risky behaviors that can put their lives in danger. They’re three times more likely to drink alcohol, eight times more likely to use marijuana, and 22 times more likely to use cocaine. They’re also more likely to get into serious fights and have unprotected sex.
  • Teens who smoke get addicted to smoking. It’s a fact: most people who smoke today started smoking when they were teenagers or very young adults – just like you. So next time you see one of those old folks with a smoking related disease, what you’re really doing is just looking down the road to your own future.

Sounds pretty bad, huh? Well, it is! But it doesn’t have to be. If you work hard at quitting now, studies show you can avoid ALL of those bad things you just read about. So, what are you waiting for? Decide today to stop smoking or using any other form of tobacco and you’ll be one of the lucky ones who avoids all the bad effects of this nasty habit.

2024 American Association for Respiratory Care