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How are teens linked to tobacco?

As recently as August 2007, the CDC reported that smoking and smokeless tobacco use among adolescents were epidemic in the United States, with at least 20% of all high school and 6% of all middle school students regularly engaged in smoking, divided almost equally between males and females. Each day an estimated 1,000 young people between the ages of 12 and 17 become daily smokers. Similar to adults, most adolescent smokers are addicted to nicotine and report that they want to quit, but they have just as much, or possibly even more difficulty doing so, since some studies show adolescents are more susceptible to nicotine addiction than adults. While only 3 out of 100 high school smokers polled think they will be smoking in 5 years, in reality, 60 of them will be smoking 7 to 9 years later. Adolescent smokers also have the most to lose over time, since negative health effects increase with the number of "pack years" (the number of years smoked times the number of packs of cigarettes smoked each day). In addition to getting a head start on potential long term health effects, smoking during early childhood and adolescence contributes to increased severity of respiratory illnesses, coughing, shortness of breath, decreased physical fitness, poor lung growth and function, and worse overall health. Smokeless tobacco users may also have increased gum degeneration, oral lesions and risk of throat or mouth cancers. Several studies have showed that tobacco use in adolescence was associated with increased use of alcohol, marijuana and other drugs; increased higher-risk sexual behavior; lower self esteem; lower levels of school achievement, depression, attempted suicide, getting into fights or carrying weapons, and fewer skills to resist the influence of peers and the media to use tobacco. 
Since almost all first use and addiction to tobacco occurs before high school graduation, the CDC and other research studies indicate that most people will likely never start smoking if they are kept smoke-free when they are teens. Smoking cessation programs are not as affective with this age group as helping them understand smoking's harmful effects and preventing them from starting.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.