Smoking is addictive and once you start it can be hard to stop. Smoking is also bad for your health. If you smoke you increase your risk of developing illnesses like lung cancer, bronchitis and heart disease.

The tobacco in cigarettes is known to cause these and many other health problems. Other smoking-related illnesses include emphysema, asthma and other types of cancer such as mouth, throat and stomach cancer. Tobacco also contains nicotine, which is a highly addictive drug. This is what makes it so hard to quit smoking.

Smoking can also have other effects. It can stain your teeth and it can give you bad breath. Although people sometimes say that having a cigarette calms them down, nicotine has actually been linked to anxiety. So smoking can make you feel more stressed. Smoking is also expensive and will cost you a lot of money.

Although you might not notice it, your clothes and hair will smell of cigarette smoke. Non-smokers will notice this straight away. Because smoking damages your lungs you might also find you get out of breath and tired more quickly when you’re exercising. You might also notice that you start to cough a lot.

Sometimes other people can put pressure on you to start smoking. You should never do anything you’re not comfortable with. Starting smoking when you’re young makes it more likely that you’ll smoke as an adult. It can be a difficult habit to break so it’s better to never start.

If your friends are trying to convince you to smoke you should feel confident saying no. You could try explaining why. It can be really hard to stand up to peer pressure. It might help to practise saying no when you’re on your own. You can build up your confidence for when your friends ask you. If they won’t listen, you should walk away.

Remember that it is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to buy cigarettes or other tobacco products. It’s also against the law for anyone over 18 to buy cigarettes for you.

Electronic cigarettes, also called e-cigarettes, are also illegal for anyone under the age of 18.

Are e-cigarettes better?

E-cigarettes don’t contain tobacco but they do still contain nicotine. Because they don’t produce smoke in the same way as normal cigarettes it is thought they are better for your health. But we still don’t know what damage they could do long term.

They work by heating a liquid containing nicotine to create a vapour that you inhale. This is where the term vaping comes from. These liquids come in all kinds of flavours and smell nicer than normal cigarettes.

People have started using them to help them quit smoking. They are less harmful to your health than traditional cigarettes but if you don’t smoke at all you shouldn’t start using e-cigarettes. Nicotine is a very addictive drug and it’s best not to start using it.

What help can I get to quit smoking?

If you’ve started smoking and want to quit there’s lots of help out there. The best thing to do is go and see your doctor. They’ll be able to tell you about all the options and could refer you to a ‘stop smoking’ clinic.

One of the hardest things to deal with is the craving for nicotine. There are products that can help lessen this craving. Things like nicotine patches, chewing gum and sprays can help you. But remember that because they contain nicotine you’ll need to gradually reduce how much you use them once you’ve stopped smoking.

Going smoke-free is another option. It can be hard to quit in this way but once you get over the initial cravings it will get easier. And you won’t have to worry about weaning yourself off a nicotine substitute.

Remember that it’s always beneficial to give up smoking. You will start to notice some of the benefits within just a few weeks. For example, within two to 12 weeks of stopping smoking your energy levels will improve. This can make exercise easier and boost your immune system.

I’m worried about my mum or dad smoking. Is there anything I can do?

If you’re worried about your mum or dad smoking you should talk to them. Remember that trying to force them to quit probably won’t work. Giving up smoking isn’t easy and the person will need to want to quit to be able to see it through.

But if you explain why you’re worried about their smoking it might give them an incentive to quit. If they do quit smoking you should be supportive. Give them encouragement too so that they know you’ve noticed their efforts.

Can it damage my health if I hang out with smokers?

Cigarette smoke stays in the air and when you spend time around people who smoke you’ll inhale some of this smoke. This is called passive smoking or secondhand smoke. Although passive smoking isn’t as bad for you as smoking it does still have health effects.

If you spend a lot of time around people smoking you will have a higher risk of developing lung cancer, as well as throat cancer. You will also have a higher risk of heart disease, strokes and other lung diseases.

The impact of passive smoking is why it is illegal to smoke in workplaces and inside public buildings. It is also why it’s illegal to smoke in a car with children. If you can avoid spending time around people while they are smoking then you should as this will be better for your health.

Did you know?

-18% of children under 16 in the UK have tried smoking

-Over 80% of adult smokers started before the age of 20

-Around 80% of deaths from lung cancer are caused by smoking


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