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Teens & Smoking

  • Teen SmokingThere are currently more than 3 million young people under the age of 18 who are current smokers.
  • The addiction rate for smoking is higher than the addiction rates for marijuana, alcohol or cocaine.
  • Symptoms of nicotine addiction often occur only weeks or even just days after youth "experimentation" with smoking first begins.
  • 20 percent of high school students (grades 9-12) are current smokers.
  • 6.5 percent of eighth graders are current smokers.
  • 90 percent of smokers begin at or before age 18.


Teens and Health Risks

Short-term Risks

  • Stained teeth, periodontal disease, including tooth loss.
  • Chronic coughing, increased phlegm, emphysema and bronchitis as well as being more susceptible to influenza.
  • Mild airway obstruction, reduced lung function and slowed growth of lung function.
  • Shortness of breath and phlegm.
  • A resting heart rate that is two to three beats per minute faster than nonsmokers.
  • Hearing loss, vision problems and increased headaches.
  • Bad breath and reduced sense of smell.
  • Homes, cars and clothes smell of smoke.


Long-term Risks

  • Increased risk for heart disease
  • Increased risk for chronic lung disease        
  • Increased risk for lung and other cancers


Teens and Nicotine Addiction

  • While many smokers believe that smoking relieves stress, it is actually a major cause. Smoking only appears to reduce stress because it lessens the irritability and tension caused by the underlying nicotine addiction.
  • Each day, 1,200 kids younger than 18 years of age become new, daily smokers.
  • More than a third of all kids who ever try smoking a cigarette become daily smokers before leaving high school.
  • The addiction rate for smoking is higher than the addiction rates for marijuana, alcohol or cocaine.
  • Young people who try to quit suffer the same nicotine withdrawal symptoms as adults.


Teens and Quitting

  • Counseling interventions greatly improve quit rates among teens.
  • Young people who enroll in a tobacco cessation program are twice as likely to succeed in their quit attempt.
  • Adolescents are very interested in quitting; 82 percent of 11- to 19-year-olds who smoke are thinking about quitting; 77 percent have made a serious quit attempt in the past year.




Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), HHS, Results from the 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Office of Applied Studies, NSDUH Series H-34, DHHS Publication No. SMA 08-4343), Rockville, MD, 2008,
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.  Research and Data:  Factsheets: Tobacco Harm to Kids.
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, The Path to Smoking Addiction Starts at Very Young Ages;
Fiore MC, Jaén CR, Baker TB, et al. Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence: 2008 Update.  Clinical Practice Guideline. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Public Health Service. May 2008.


This information has been approved by Amy Lukowski, PsyD (August 2015).