Get Informed - Tobacco

Tobacco Abuse

Young people give many different reasons for smoking. Some say smoking makes them “feel mature and like an adult” or that they want “To fit in with a group socially” or “To try to control body weight.” Girls today smoke more than boys. Many attribute this to girls’ growing obsession with staying slim (as nicotine is a potent appetite suppressant) and cigarette ads’ portrayal of girls who smoke as sexy.   Girls who smoke regularly are more likely to have parents, siblings, or friends who smoke, be risk-takers and rebellious, and be limited in their educational goals.


Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death in the United States.  It also is a common cause of heart disease, cancers, and strokes. Adolescents can become hooked on cigarettes after smoking only a few packs and once addicted, they find it extremely hard to quit. One national study asked young tobacco users if they thought they would be smoking in five years. Those who replied “no”were contacted five years later and three in four were still addicted.


Kids who use tobacco have more physical complaints than their peers who do not smoke. Smokers also cough and have asthma attacks and respiratory problems more often, leading to more sick days, more doctor bills, and poorer athletic performance. These children are more likely to use alcohol and other drugs such as cocaine and marijuana. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adolescents who smoke are three times more likely to drink alcohol, eight times more likely to smoke marijuana and twenty-two times more likely to use cocaine. For that reason, tobacco has been dubbed a “gateway” drug.


Parents play an integral part in helping keep their kids Tobacco Free. The tips below can help you in this regard (1).

Get Informed - Tobacco

Take a Stand at Home Early and Often


  • Despite the impact of movies, music, and TV, parents can be the GREATEST INFLUENCE in their kids’  lives.
  • Talk directly to children about the risks of tobacco use; if friends or relatives died from tobacco-related illnesses, let your kids know.
  • If you use tobacco, you can still make a difference. Your best move, of course, is to try to quit. Meanwhile, don’t use tobacco in your children’s presence, don’t offer it to them, and don’t leave it where they can easily get it.
  • Start the dialog about tobacco use at age 5 or 6 and continue through their high school years. Many kids start using tobacco by age 11, and many are addicted by age 14.
  • Know if your kids’ friends use tobacco. Talk about ways to refuse tobacco.
  • Discuss with kids the false glamorization of tobacco on billboards and in other media, such as movies, TV, and magazines.
  • Make a Difference in Your Community-Your kids follow by example
  • Support businesses that don’t sell tobacco to kids. Frequent restaurants and other places that are tobacco-free.
  • Be sure your schools and all school events (i.e., parties, sporting events, etc.) are tobacco-free.
  • Partner with your local tobacco prevention programs. Call your local health department or your cancer, heart, or lung association to learn how you can get involved.

Teach your children about the myths of tobacco. This video discusses the 7 myths that are commonly associated with smoking. Then discuss the issues with your teen when you feel it is appropriate.


For age specific advice, on how to discuss tobacco use with your kids, refer to:

Tips to Talking to your kids about smoking

Need to Quit?

If you or your child is already addicted, there’s help available to you. You and/or your child can successfully quit smoking with help and support. Get support from family and friends. Ask your doctor for help finding a program to stop smoking.or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (800/784-8669). 1-800-QUIT NOW is a national toll-free telephone counseling resource.  Additional resources can be found at:



  1. Center for Disease Control: Smoking and Tobacco Information Sheet.


Information Last updated January 2019

Disclaimer: All health information on is for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking this because of something you have read on the website. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.


Useful Websites

American Lung Association and Youth

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