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Health Raps: Smoking Cessation

Tobacco damages your health. Smoking is the most common cause of lung cancer. Smoking is also a leading cause of cancer of the mouth, throat, bladder, pancreas, and kidney. Smokeless tobacco can cause mouth cancer, tooth loss, and other health problems.

Tobacco affects your body's development. Smoking is particularly harmful for teens because your body is still growing and changing. The 200 known poisons in cigarette smoke affect your normal development and can cause life-threatening diseases, such as chronic bronchitis, heart disease, and stroke.

Tobacco is addictive. Cigarettes contain nicotine--a powerfully addictive substance. Three-quarters of young people who use tobacco daily continue to do so because they find it hard to quit.

Tobacco can kill you. Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in this country. More than 400,000 Americans die from tobacco-related causes each year, and most of them began using tobacco before the age of 18.

Before you decide to smokeĀ…think about this!

  • It is illegal for anyone under 18 to buy cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, or tobacco-related products.
  • Addiction to tobacco is hard to control. More than 90 percent of teens who use tobacco daily experience at least one symptom of withdrawal when they try to quit.
  • The poisons in cigarettes can affect your appearance. Smoking can dry your skin out and cause wrinkles.
  • It can be hard to play sports if you use tobacco. Smoking causes shortness of breath and dizziness, and chewing tobacco causes dehydration.
  • Smoking puts the health of your friends and family at risk. Approximately 3,000 nonsmokers die of lung cancer each year from breathing other peoples' smoke.

Did You Know?. Each day more than 3,000 people under age 18 become regular smokers. That's more than 1 million teens per year. Roughly one-third of them will eventually die from a tobacco-related disease.

Look around you. Even though a lot of teens use tobacco, most don't. According to a 1998 study, less than 20 percent of teens are regular smokers. In fact, 64 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds have never even tried a cigarette.

How you can tell if a friend is using tobacco?

Sometimes it's tough to tell. But there are signs you can look for. If your friend has one or more of the following signs, he or she may be regularly using tobacco:

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Bad breath
  • Smelly hair and clothes
  • Yellow-stained teeth and fingers
  • Frequent colds
  • Decreased senses of smell and taste
  • Difficulty keeping up with sports and athletic activities
  • Bleeding gums (smokeless tobacco)
  • Frequent mouth sores (smokeless tobacco)

If you know someone who is using tobacco, urge him or her to quit. If you are using it--stop! The longer you ignore the real facts, the more chances you take with your health and well-being.

It's never too late. Talk to your parents, a doctor, a counselor, a teacher, or another adult you trust. 

"Health Raps: Smoking Cessation" was produced in September of 2004. For the most recently updated health information, consult a physician and visit health.gov.   

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