Teens gripped by addictive and deadly habit

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

Smoking is among the most addictive and harmful habits affecting teens today.

Smoking accounts for three million deaths world wide each year and out of these, 46,000 occur in Canada. According to the Canadian Council on Smoking and Health there are more deaths from smoking-related illnesses in Canada than all the deaths caused by traffic accidents, murders, suicides, drug abuse and AIDS combined.


Smoking is the leading cause of early death, illness and disability. Cigarettes contain more than 4000 different chemicals. More than 50 of these substances lead to cancer. The nicotine in cigarettes, which creates a relaxed or stimulated feeling, is at the same time is very addictive. The body becomes dependent upon having the chemical. This dependency or addiction puts long time smokers at risk for various diseases related to smoking.

Every day in British Columbia, 20 teens take up smoking. The age at which kids are beginning to smoke is declining. The "Decisions" survey done by Jennifer Sirges, in 1997 showed 28% of the students at PHSS smoke regularly and 71% have tried smoking. Aspects such as the environment in your home can predict the likelihood of you smoking. Kids whose parents smoke are twice as likely to end up smoking. If their friends smoke they are 16 times as likely to smoke than those whose friends don't.

The Truth About Smoking

  • Smoking causes 46,000 deaths in Canada each year and 3 million deaths worldwide.
  • There are over 4000 chemicals in one cigarette, including arsenic, ammonia and cyanide.
  • The 43 chemicals found in second-hand smoke can cause cancer.
  • 6.5 million Canadians, over the age of 15, are regular smokers.
  • 85% of smokers would like to quit.
  • 95% of smokers that quit, do so "cold turkey".
  • Most smokers start because of "peer pressure".

Many efforts are being put in to help prevent youth from smoking. There is a district-wide policy that near schools. Also the legal age to buy cigarettes is 19 and more and more no-smoking laws in public areas are coming into effect. The Workers Compensation of Health and

Municipalities have established a cooperative approach to creating province-wide workplaces free of second hand smoke. This act will be put into place on January 1, 2000 and will apply to all public places. A bylaw has already been put into effect in Vancouver public places. The Angus Reed survey showed 72% of British Columbians support the bylaw barring smoking in indoor public places. Even so, the acts which try to prohibit smoking do not always discourage smokers from doing so.

School wide education on smoking is becoming more important. Smoking prevention groups such as Decisions, run by Jennifer Sirges at PHSS, recruits senior students who are non-smokers to be peer educators to talk to younger students about smoking. It is a good way to be a positive. influence and role model in your community.

"I think the program worked really well, a lot of grade eights I see in the high school don't smoke," Renee Taylor said.

A smoking cessation starting September '99 is looking for teens interested in facilitating this program, which is not yet named, and teens who want to quit smoking. May 31st was also World No-Tobacco Day.

Many people, are trying to make others aware of the consequences of smoking, but it is up to the individuals involved to listen and to make the choice for themselves.