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Smoking, Teens and Asthma

You’ve heard that smoking and breathing in second hand smoke is bad for you. You might know that if you have asthma, it's really bad. Why?

  • Cigarette smoke makes your asthma worse by irritating your airways and causing them to narrow.
  • Kids who smoke are less likely to have that long-term improvement in their asthma, than non-smokers.
  • Smoking and breathing in second hand smoke makes having asthma attacks more likely to happen, and can damage your airways for the rest of your life.
  • Smoking lines your lungs with tar, and then they don't work as well. That makes sports and other activities even harder.

I don't smoke, but I am around people who do.

It's great you don't smoke, don't ever start! Unfortunately, that doesn't mean that you're safe. Breathing in other people's smoke can be just as harmful to people with asthma as smoking yourself. It can be really tough if someone in your family or your friends smoke. But if you have asthma, it's very important to speak up and let people know their smoke can, or is, causing you problems.

Here are some ideas to help you deal with people smoking when you're around:

  • Tell them how you feel.
  • Ask them not to smoke when you're in their car, or while you're eating together.
  • Tell them how their smoking makes your asthma worse – they may not even know what they're doing to you.
  • Ask them to give up smoking, but remember that it is an addiction and this can be very hard. Some kids have found that it works to ask their parents to quit smoking for their birthday present.
  • If they can't give up, ask them to smoke outside instead.
  • If that isn't possible either, make sure you have a place, like your bedroom that is kept smoke-free.

Even when they know of all of that, the number of kids who smoke continues to go up. Why? Some kids say…

Smoking won't really hurt me.


Smoking causes more deaths every year than fires, car crashes, alcohol, cocaine, heroin, AIDS, murders and suicides COMBINED. Sounds pretty dangerous!

I exercise so it doesn't matter.


No amount of exercise can take away the damage done by smoking cigarettes. In the U.S. each year 400,000 people die because of smoking, whether they exercised or not.

Tobacco is not a drug.


Nicotine, the stimulant in tobacco, is more addictive than cocaine or heroin. Cigarettes are the only product that when used exactly as intended causes addiction and disease and kills the customer.

I'm not hurting anyone else.


The dangers of second-hand smoke are well known. Second hand tobacco smoke is responsible for 3,000 cancer deaths each year, as well as 62,000 deaths from coronary artery disease. In addition, it is known to cause serious respiratory problems in children, including more severe asthma attacks and respiratory infections.

I smoke because I choose to.


Each year more than a million teenagers "choose to" become regular smokers. Nicotine is so highly addictive that if you choose to start, you will find it hard to "choose to" stop. Tobacco companies are making $200 million a year by selling to and addicting a new generation of customers – you!

Because smoking keeps the weight off – I'll gain weight if I quit.


Smoking doesn't keep you slim. Gaining weight may occur when you quit cigarettes, but the small amount of weight you might gain is a lot less harmful than smoking. Research tells us that a person would have to gain more than 100 pounds to equal the health risks of smoking two packs of cigarettes. Try walking or exercising when you feel the urge to smoke to help keep the weight gain down when you quit.

Because smoking relaxes me.


It may feel like it, but the nicotine in cigarettes is actually a stimulant. It speeds up your bodily functions and increases your heart rate.

I use spit tobacco – it's safer.


It has nicotine and is addictive, too. It causes mouth cancer and gum and tooth problems. The majority of teens don't want to date anyone who uses spit tobacco.

Because it makes me look cool.


Smokers have bad breath, their fingers and teeth can turn yellow and their faces get lined and wrinkled faster. The cigarette companies spend more than $6 billion each year – $16 million every day and $11,000 every minute – on advertising and special promotions to make you believe it's cool.

I'm young, I can stop when I'm older.


Smoking is very addictive. The younger you are when you start, the harder it will be to stop when you're older. Also, the younger you start, the greater the chance for disease.

I'll outgrow my asthma anyway.


Some kids will stop having asthma symptoms as frequently as in the past, and it may seem like they have outgrown it. But it isn't gone, it just isn't active, and could come back at any time. Other people will have to deal with asthma throughout their lives.

Learn more about smoking and asthma.