Each day in the United States, about 4,000 kids smoke their first cigarette. Many of them will become daily smokers. "For teens, it may seem cool to smoke. But tobacco use at a young age can cause immediate and long-term health problems like cancer," says Alexander Prokhorov, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Tobacco Outreach Education Program at MD Anderson.
Recent data shows that the declining number of teen tobacco users has stalled. And, the tobacco industry may be to blame. The industry advertises products, like e-cigarettes, flavored cigarillos and hookahs, as "safe" and is capturing the attention of kids.
"All tobacco products are dangerous," Prokhorov says. "We need to be proactive about educating our communities, schools and governments about the dangers of these products." Use the facts below to educate kids about the health risks of trendy tobacco products.
Cigarillos contain dangerous chemicals
Cigar use among high school students rose from 7% in 2009 to 12% in 2011. One main factor: flavored cigarillos.
Cigarillos, or little cigars, are a cousin to the flavored cigar. They're sweet, cheap and come in colorful packages. "They're especially appealing to minorities," Prokhorov says. "The tobacco industry recognizes this and markets to them." You can buy cigarillos individually for less than 70 cents.
Health risks: Cigarillos may seem fun to kids, but they contain the same dangerous chemicals as regular cigarettes and cigars. Smoking them can cause heart disease, lung cancer and lung disease.
Hookahs promote nicotine addiction
Hookahs are water pipes that create flavored tobacco vapor. Most people use hookahs at bars and cafes to socialize, but companies also sell hookahs for personal use.
Health risks: During the average 40-minute hookahsession, users can inhale about 100 times the amount of smoke that's in a cigarette. "The culprit is still nicotine and cancer-causing chemicals,"Prokhorov says. "Nicotine addiction in youth can develop fast and remain strong."
E-cigarettes: a gateway for other tobacco products
Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are smokeless electronic devices that the tobacco industry is pitching as harmless.
E-cigarette users inhale a vapor of liquid nicotine similarto the way a smoker puffs on a cigarette. You can buy the liquid nicotine in a wide variety flavors. "Don't be fooled," Prokhorov says. "Because e-cigarettes aren't regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, we don't know what chemicals and additives are really in e-cigarettes, but they could be harmful."
Health risks: Even though they don't use tobacco, e-cigarettes contain nicotine and can easily become a gateway for teens to try other tobacco products. E-cigarettes also can put kids at risk for lung cancer and heart disease.