Just one cigarette puff can become a lasting problem for teens. More than 80% of daily adult smokers begin smoking before age 18.
Today, nearly one in four high school seniors smoke. And, the tobacco industry may be to blame.
The industry spends billions of dollars advertising products like e-cigarettes, flavored cigars and hookahs. They’re touting these products as “safe” and capturing the attention of your kids.
“All tobacco products are dangerous,” says Alexander Prokhorov, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Tobacco Outreach Education Program at MD Anderson. “Tobacco use at a young age can cause immediate and long-term health problems like cancer.”
The good news: tobacco use is preventable. The best defense is to educate your kids.
Use our guide to learn what products are on the market so you can inform your kids.
Convenience stores and gas stations are the biggest sellers of flavored cigars. You can find them next to the candy aisle.
Flavored cigars come in cherry, vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, Da Bomb Blueberry and more. Plus, they’re cheaper than a pack of gum. A typical pack of 20 costs about $2.
“The amount of nicotine in an average cigar is nearly 20 times that of a conventional cigarette,” Prokhorov says. And teens aren’t just puffing on cigars, they’re inhaling. Smoking flavored cigars causes cancers of the oral cavity, larynx, esophagus and lung.
Cigarillos, or little cigars, are a cousin to the flavored cigar. They’re sweet, cheap and come in colorful packages.
Cigarillos come in flavors like chocolate, strawberry, peach, grape, sour apple, watermelon and more. Such sweet flavors mask the harsh flavor of tobacco. They sell in packs of 20 or individually for less than 70 cents.
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.
ookahs 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.
An average hookah session lasts about 40 minutes. Users can inhale about 100 times the amount of smoke that’s in a cigarette. Hookahs may appear to be fancy and trendy, but they’re not safe alternatives to cigarettes. They still contain nicotine’s cancer-causing chemicals.
Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are smokeless electronic devices that look like cigarettes. E-cigarette users inhale a vapor of liquid nicotine similar to the way a smoker puffs on a cigarette.
The liquid nicotine inside e-cigarettes comes in hundreds of different flavors. The only deterrent for kids may be the cost. It’s $10 for one and up to $100 for a kit.
The bottom line: even though they don’t use tobacco, e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is addictive. So they can easily become a gateway for experimenting teens to try other tobacco products. E-cigarettes also can put kids at risk for lung cancer and heart disease.
SNUS is a smokeless tobacco developed in Sweden. It’s similar to dip or chew. Users place it under their lip, but it doesn’t require spitting. It sells loosely or in small bags known as pods.
A can of smokeless tobacco typically costs $3 to $5. The number of white high school males who use SNUS is on the rise – one in five uses smokeless tobacco. It’s as dangerous as cigarette smoking.
Users absorb the nicotine in smokeless tobacco through the lining of their mouth. It causes oral, esophageal and pancreatic cancers. It may also cause heart disease, gum disease and oral lesions.
“Parents, talk to your kids about the dangers of tobacco use,” Prokhorov says. Tell your children what they’re not hearing from media and friends, seeing in movies and reading on the Internet.
Request an appointment at MD Anderson's Lyda Hill Cancer Prevention Center online or call 877-632-6789.