Smoking and Vaping: Understanding and Preventing the Habit

Many adolescents aren’t concerned about the future. As Steinberg and Levine say in the book You and Your Adolescent, “They care about what is happening in their lives right now. Study after study has shown that exposing teenagers to the grim facts of cancer and heart disease does little or nothing to discourage smoking.” They feel like they will have plenty of time to quit. Right now, they are indestructible. The most effective way to keep your teenager from smoking is to address the issues that matter to her right now—for instance, personal appearance, physical fitness, and popularity. The best thing you can do is to dispel the myths about smoking. Do this by giving your teenager the facts, as provided by Steinberg and Levine.

Myth One: Smoking makes you look sexy.

Facts: Smoking causes bad breath, yellow teeth, gum disease, hacking coughs, excess phlegm, smelly hair, stained fingers, and burn holes in your favorite clothes. According to Steinberg and Levine, “Surveys show that most teenagers do not want to go out with, much less kiss, someone who smokes.”

Myth Two: Cigarettes help you relax.

Facts: Actually, the opposite is true. Smoking can make your heart rate and blood pressure go up with just one puff. Smokers become addicted to the nicotine in cigarettes. About a half hour after you smoke a cigarette, the nicotine wears off. Your body craves more, and you can’t relax until you have another cigarette. So, in reality, cigarettes do not help you relax. The second cigarette only relieves the tension created by the first one.

Myth Three: Exercise counteracts the effects of smoking.

Facts: If you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day for one year, you will have about a quart of tar sitting in your lungs. According to Steinberg and Levine, “All the exercise, vitamins, and health foods in the world won’t get rid of these poisons. Smoking lowers the level of oxygen in the bloodstream, causes shortness of breath, and reduces stamina, making exercise more difficult."

Myth Four: I can always stop when I want to.

Facts: Most people who smoke have been smoking since they were teenagers. And the younger they were when they started smoking, the more likely they are to be heavy smokers. When heavy smokers try to quit, they usually have very uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms such as nervous jitters, irritability, and sleep disturbances. They continue to crave and dream about cigarettes for months and even years later. Tell your teenager to ask this question of some older people who smoke: “If you had the choice today, would you start smoking?” Nine out of ten smokers will say no. Ninety percent of teenagers who’ve been smoking for a couple of years wish they had never started.


Some teenagers think vaping is a safe alternative to smoking. It's less harmful than smoking, true, but it's still not safe. It's bad for your heart and lungs, e-cigarettes are just as addictive as traditional cigarettes, and they don't help you quit smoking as some people claim.