Smoking is a habit that often has a long-term and devastating impact on the human body. Once, smoking was widely thought of as glamorous or sophisticated, but it’s now considered a dangerous vice that many find offensive to the senses. In addition, a smoker’s secondhand smoke is harmful to those who are regularly exposed to it. Although it’s a dangerous habit for adults, it is especially harmful to teens. Despite the many warnings against starting this particular habit, some people still not only try it but continue to use it. While parents often warn teens against the dangers of tobacco, it’s helpful to study and learn what the associated risks are for yourself.

Smoking and Tobacco Use by the Numbers

Most people begin using tobacco in their youth: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nine out of ten smokers started to smoke before they were 18 years old. Every day, 3,200 teens in the U.S. smoke their first cigarette. Within this group, 2,100 will go on to smoke on a regular basis. Overall, 4 million middle school and high school students used some form of tobacco in 2016. According to the American Lung Association, the most common type of smoking was using electronic cigarettes, at 16 percent, followed by 9.3 percent of students using cigarettes.

Harmful Effects on the Body

When you smoke, you are putting yourself at risk of addiction, but this is not the only risk that comes with using cigarettes or other tobacco products. Cigarettes contain tobacco and thousands of other chemicals that are harmful to the body. These chemicals cause illnesses such as lung cancer. Long-term smokers who start at an early age can expect reduced growth and function of the lungs. In addition, a smoker’s heart rate is up to three beats a minute faster than that of a non-smoker of the same age, and this added stress on the heart can contribute to heart disease.

Smoking also affects your brain. Studies have shown that it slows the function of the brain in areas where decision-making takes place. In addition, the brain is still developing during your teen years, and smoking may negatively impact that growth. The risk of mood disorders such as depression also increases in young adults who smoke.

Preventative Measures

Life as a teen can be complicated, and smoking may feel like a way to gain acceptance or cope with new or frustrating feelings. But smoking isn’t an effective way to make yourself more popular or to resolve problems. To avoid starting smoking and help others do the same, stand firm against peer to smoke, and if the pressure continues, stop spending time with people who don’t respect your decision not to smoke. You can also avoid the temptation to start smoking by keeping yourself busy doing other, more fun, healthier things, like playing a sport or taking dance classes. Also, remember that smoking is an expensive habit, and you could spend that money on so many other things instead, like clothes, a new phone, or a car.

The impact of smoking on your appearance can also be a powerful motivator to avoid cigarettes. Smoking can cause yellowing of the teeth, premature aging of the skin, and even excess facial hair. It can also make it difficult to date, as many people find smoking to be a disgusting habit and the smell of cigarette smoke to be off-putting.

It’s important for you to remember that you can always turn to your parents and teachers for advice and guidance if you have questions about smoking or are worried about being pressured into trying it. But it’s also important for parents to remember that they need to be good role models: If your parents smoke, urge them to quit.

Misconception About Smoking Alternatives

Don’t let anyone fool you into believing that there’s a such thing as safe smoking. Even common alternatives to smoking tobacco products have dangers. One common myth is that vaping is safer than smoking, but that’s not entirely true. While vaping liquids don’t contain all of the chemicals found in cigarettes, they still contain harmful chemicals, including ones that can cause cancer. In addition to nicotine, the cartridges used in electronic cigarettes also contain a solvent such as propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin. Inhaling vegetable glycerin can result in organ damage, while propylene glycol can cause irritation to lungs, eyes, and other soft tissues.

Some teens also think that using a hookah is safer than smoking cigarettes, but that’s not true, either. The smoke from a hookah contains the same amount of nicotine, and the water in the hookah doesn’t filter out any significant amount of toxins. In fact, using a hookah often leads you to inhale more smoke than you would from a cigarette, putting you further down the path toward lung cancer, pregnancy complications, and/or heart disease.