Starting young makes it harder to quit smoking

By Ellen Waldstein
Port Hardy Secondary School
Port Hardy, British Columbia

No one ever said quitting smoking was easy, but it is possible and needs to be done.

If you are a non-smoker, a wise and healthy choice would be to not start. The longer you stay away from smoking the less likely you arc to start and develop an addiction. Most long term smokers start young; only 10 percent of smokers begin as adults and few start after the age of 19. The 1997 Angus Reed survey of B.C. shows 83 per cent of smokers start before then.


There can be many pressures or reasons which compel people to start or continue the habit of smoking. Some include the need to calm stress, appear more mature, a way to bond with your friends or rebel against authority. Some people have even started smoking to lose weight.

However, there are many more reasons to kick the habit or make the choice not to start, the biggest being your health. Many teens who smoke regularly believe they will quit before it begins to affect their health. But the body is effected right away and most teens who smoke regularly don't quit and end up as a long-term smokers. The health consequences related to smoking are countless and some of the most preventable.

The high cost that people pay to feed their addiction is another factor to keep in mind. Most teens are already strapped for cash without having to save for cigarettes. A 15 year-old who starts smoking will create $25,000 revenue for the tobacco companies over their lifetime. The unwanted smell, taste, and look also doesn't appeal to most people.

If you want to quit smoking, then don't wait -- act right away. Saying you'll quit later is just an excuse. The longer you put it off, the more difficult it will be to quit. Quitting "cold turkey" and being strong-willed is the best way. Ninety-five per cent of smokers who quit, do so "cold turkey."

Going to non-smoking public places with your friends is a way of avoiding smoking. A new law coming into effect January 1, 2000 will ban smoking in all public places in B.C. This should aid smokers in cutting down and also create a healthier environment for non-smokers. Also finding other things to do will occupy you. Another good strategy is quitting with a friend so you are not alone and you are twice as motivated.

Keep in mind that quitting is the best thing you can do for yourself and look at the benefits it will bring.


Risks associated with smoking:

  • Heart Disease: 16,000 Canadians die each year from tobacco-related heart disease. That's 44 people every day. Smoking doubles the chance of getting heart disease.

  • High Blood Pressure

  • Cancer: Smokers are ten times more likely to suffer from lung cancer. Smoking is related to 85% of all lung cancer cases and it kills 90% of its victims. 30% of cancer deaths are caused by tobacco use.

  • Emphysema/Chronic Bronchitis: Smoking causes 80% to 90% of all Emphysema/Chronic Bronchitis cases.

  • Digestive System: Smoking causes ulcers in the digestive system.

  • The Pill: Women who smoke and take birth control at the same time are ten times more likely to suffer from heart disease or stroke than smokers that don't take the pill. Women smokers are also more likely to develop blood clots than women who do not smoke while on the pill.

  • Pregnancy: Smoking increases the chance of Sudden Death Syndrome. Children with smoking parents have more breathing problems, colds, and infections than children whose parents don't. These children may develop at a slower pace.

  • Smoking dramatically affects the cardiovascular system: Carbon monoxide in smoke causes the blood to be less able to carry oxygen. As a result the heart has to work harder to get enough oxygen to the body. The nicotine in smoke causes the heart to beat faster, so your heart has to work harder. Nicotine causes the blood vessels to narrow, increasing the blood pressure. Nicotine also increases the build-up of deposits along the walls of the arteries. Increasing blood pressure and can also lead to blood clots causing the heart to have to work harder.