Helping Teens to Breathe Easier Without Tobacco

World No Tobacco Day has taken place every May 31st since 1987. This particular awareness day is sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and aims to highlight the health risks associated with the use of tobacco and to encourage governments to adopt effective anti-tobacco policies.

Tobacco and Teens

The bottom line is that tobacco in any type of product is harmful to the developing brain of a teen and can lead to serious health problems. The following is a discussion of the types of tobacco products that teens may be using.


The smoke inhaled from a lit cigarette contains over 7,000 different chemicals, more than 70 of which have been linked to cancer. There is no scientific proof that cigarettes advertised as “additive-free,” “organic,” or “all-natural,” are any safer than regular cigarettes. Teens who begin smoking in high school are much more likely to still be smoking in adulthood. Read this Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report on the health effects of cigarette smoking.

Smokeless Tobacco

Tobacco does not have to be burned. Smokeless tobacco types include chewing tobacco, dip, snuff, oral tobacco, and spit or spitting tobacco. All of these tobacco products have high levels of toxic chemicals and cancer-causing substances. Smokeless tobacco users have a high risk of developing mouth and throat cancer. Teens who use smokeless tobacco may become addicted to nicotine and are more likely to become cigarette smokers. Click here for a CDC report on the health risks of smokeless tobacco.

Hookah Tobacco

Hookah tobacco is smoked in a hookah water pipe and is usually flavored. Other names for hookah tobacco are argileh, goza, hubble-bubble, maassel, narghile, and shisha. Just because the smoke from the hookah is passed through water doesn’t make it safe. Hookah smoke contains significant amounts of carbon monoxide and chemical substances that are known to cause bladder, lung, and mouth cancers. Studies of college students have found rising rates of hookah use among them. Here is a CDC report on the dangers of hookah smoking.


E-cigarettes work by heating a liquid that turns into an aerosol vapor inhaled by the user. The vapor from e-cigarettes contains a mixture of harmful chemicals that are unsafe to breathe. Nicotine is also present in many e-cigarettes. The use of e-cigarettes among high school students has grown dramatically and more of them are using e-cigarettes rather than regular cigarettes. Read this message from the U.S. Surgeon General on the risks of using e-cigarettes.

Cigars and Cigarillos

A cigar consists of tobacco wrapped in leaf tobacco. Cigars come in a variety of sizes ranging from small filtered cigars or cigarillos to large premium cigars. In comparison to cigarette tobacco, cigar tobacco contains higher levels of some cancer-causing chemicals. Cigar smokers don’t need to fully inhale to be exposed to nicotine which can also be absorbed through the lips and fingers. Marketers are targeting teens with small cigars enhanced with enticing flavors such as candy apple or chocolate. Here is a report from the National Cancer Institute on the dangers of cigar smoking.

Teen Anti-Tobacco Campaign Makes Some Progress

The American Lung Association (ALA) reports a decline from 25.3% to 20.2% in tobacco use among high school students in 2015-2016 (based on research carried out by the CDC). This decrease demonstrates that campaigns to reduce tobacco use among teens can make a difference. However, more work is needed as over 20% of U.S. teens are still using at least one tobacco product.

The Not On Tobacco (N-O-T) Program

N-O-T is an ALA program to promote cessation of smoking among teens. It’s a ten-week program where teen participants learn to gain insights into why they smoke, and are provided with information on healthy options to stop tobacco use and where to find support when they try to quit.

N-O-T Really Works

N-O-T is a structured approach to helping teens to quit smoking and is based on social cognitive theory. The N-O-T program has proven to be feasible and effective, and has been selected as a model program by the National Registry of Effective Programs (NREP).

Talk to Your Teen About the Risks of All Tobacco Products

Having conversations with your teen about the risks of using any tobacco product will help them not to begin use in the first place or help them to quit if they are already experimenting. And, think about contacting the Youth Tobacco Prevention program in Maricopa County to find out about tobacco cessation programs in your area.

Need Help With Your Teen?

Doorways wants your teen to be tobacco-free but also free from all major problems that can affect teens. So, if you are having a problem with your teen and need professional help, make an appointment with us for a no-obligation, no-charge consultation. Treating substance abuse (such as tobacco abuse) is not a Doorways specialty, but we can refer you to professionals who can help you and your teen.


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