Smoking in Teens


Using any tobacco or nicotine product – including e-cigarettes (vaping) – harms you in many ways.

For starters:

  • Nicotine is dangerous and addictive.
  • Tobacco use kills more people in the United States yearly than alcohol, addictive drugs, car crashes, murder, suicide, fires, and AIDS combined.

When you smoke or vape, your body and brain start to need nicotine. Eventually, your brain:

  • Won't function well without it.
  • Can be permanently damaged.

Smoking coats your lungs with tar and starves your body of oxygen. That means:

  • It’s hard to breathe.
  • Your sports participation and performance decline.
  • Your blood vessels are damaged, which can lead to heart disease.

Addictive and Toxic Effects

Tobacco and e-cigarette companies will do anything to get you addicted to nicotine. For example, e-cigarette nicotine is often flavored like candy.

Unlike adults, teens who smoke or vape 1 to 3 times a day can quickly get addicted. “Fewer” doesn't necessarily mean “safer” for teens.

Toxic Ingredients

Smoking cigarettes brings toxins into your body, including:

  • Arsenic (used in rat poison).
  • Acetone (used in nail polish remover).
  • Formaldehyde (used to preserve dead bodies).
  • Many other chemicals you’d never want inside you.

E-cigarettes and "natural" or "additive-free" cigarettes:

  • Contain many of these same chemicals.
  • Aren’t safer or better for you.
  • Are just as addictive, since they contain nicotine.

E-cigarettes, cigars, cloves, bidis, and hookahs do the same things to your body as cigarettes. Using e-cigarettes makes you more likely to use tobacco products.

Benefits of Quitting

Quitting smoking will make you feel and look better. You get rid of side effects like:

  • Bad-tasting breath
  • Yellow teeth
  • A brown tongue

Some benefits of quitting start minutes after your last cigarette. Your body begins to heal.

After 24 hours, your blood oxygen levels go back to normal and heart attack risk goes down.

After 1 to 9 months, you have more energy and get fewer colds.

Also, your:

  • Lungs work better.
  • Circulation improves.
  • Senses of taste and smell return, so food tastes better.

After 1 year, your risk of heart disease is half what it was when you smoked.

Later in life, your risk of lung cancer and stroke will also be lower. You won’t have the wrinkly skin, loose teeth, and raspy voice of an older smoker.

You’ll also save $1,400, or more, every year you don’t buy cigarettes.

Why Did You Start?

Ask yourself why you started smoking in the first place. Some start because people around them smoke, or because they want to fit in. Others are just curious.

Whatever the reason, 70 percent of smokers between 12 and 17 years old say they wish they’d never started smoking.

People who want to quit smoking really can quit:

  • In the U.S., half of all people who ever smoked no longer do.
  • It's easier for you to quit now, while you're young. People who smoke for a long time are more addicted and have a harder time.

How to Quit

First, set a date to quit on your calendar. Then, take these steps.

Ask for support from family and friends, or find someone to quit with you.

Keep track of your smoking. Write down when, where, and why you smoke each cigarette. This can help you:

  • Understand how smoking got into your life.
  • Help you see how to replace smoking with healthy activities.

Try going without a cigarette:

  • Don't smoke when you first get a craving. Usually cravings go away within 10 minutes.
  • Distract yourself or talk to a friend.

Practice being a nonsmoker. Pick time blocks when you won't smoke. For example, "I won't smoke after 3 p.m." 

Talk to us, or ask your school counselor, about programs for teens. Call the California Smokers' Helpline (1-800-NO-BUTTS) for free, confidential help.

Sticking With It

For the first few days after you quit, plan to keep very busy with smoke-free activities.

Stock up on sugarless gum and water, especially if you'll be around smokers.

Avoid difficult situations and being around smokers. You can just say "no thanks, I'm quitting," if you’re offered a cigarette at a party.

Take it one day at a time.

Know that one "slip-up" won't ruin your plans. Forgive yourself. Think about why you smoked, and deal with it differently next time.

Know that the worst will be over in just a few days, but physical withdrawal symptoms can last a few weeks.

Get rid of lighters, ashtrays, and all your cigarettes.

Keep your hands busy.

Keep low-calorie snacks on hand, like air-popped popcorn, baby carrots, or fruit.

Reward yourself whenever you achieve a goal.

For Parents of Teens

Your role in helping your teen avoid tobacco is important.

Talk with your teen about the dangers of smoking.

One of the strongest triggers for teen smoking is having family members who smoke. If you or others in your family smoke, we encourage you to quit.

If you think your teen has a problem with using tobacco, please call us. Together, we can provide support and resources to your teen.

How teen care is different

We want to partner with parents to teach teens how to take charge of their health care. This is important as they transition to adulthood.

We sometimes request confidential appointments with teens. This privacy:

  • Allows us to address important health and safety issues.
  • Gives your teen a chance to ask questions and talk about topics that may be embarrassing.

Like adults, many teens prefer to talk privately with their doctor or therapist about sensitive issues.

We also want to hear about your concerns as a parent. At your teen's appointment, please let the doctor (or nurse or medical assistant) know if you have specific questions. We’ll discuss them with you.

If you have an emergency medical condition, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. An emergency medical condition is any of the following: (1) a medical condition that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that you could reasonably expect the absence of immediate medical attention to result in serious jeopardy to your health or body functions or organs; (2) active labor when there isn't enough time for safe transfer to a Plan hospital (or designated hospital) before delivery, or if transfer poses a threat to your (or your unborn child's) health and safety, or (3) a mental disorder that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity such that either you are an immediate danger to yourself or others, or you are not immediately able to provide for, or use, food, shelter, or clothing, due to the mental disorder.

This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of specific medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other health care professional. If you have persistent health problems, or if you have additional questions, please consult with your doctor. If you have questions or need more information about your medication, please speak to your pharmacist. Kaiser Permanente does not endorse the medications or products mentioned. Any trade names listed are for easy identification only.