Risks of smoking
Someone who starts smoking at 15 is three times more likely to die from cancer than someone who starts smoking in their mid-20s. But that's not all:
- Smoking leaves you out of breath and makes you cough.
- Smoking gives you smelly hair and clothes, and yellows your teeth, hands and fingernails.
- Smoking reduces your sense of taste and your sensitivity.
- Smoking reduces blood flow to the skin, leading to wrinkles and dull skin.
- Smoking increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, fertility problems and more.
Every year the numbers of young people who start smoking are going down.
Costs of smoking
Smoking just 10 cheap cigarettes a day costs at least £1300 a year! Think of the savings you could make, or the things you could buy with the money you save.
Instant Expert: Enter your pack costs and how much you smoke into the Cost Calculator to find how much you could save each year!
How to stop smoking, step by step
You know the risks, you're sick of the cost and you've decided it's time to stop smoking. You are four times more likely to successfully become a non-smoker with support and access to medication.
- Decide to stop smoking and set a date
- Get your support in place - tell all your friends to help you, or get professional support (see below).
- Calculate how much money you will save, and decide what to spend it on
- Stop smoking and stick to your plan!
Stopping smoking can be difficult. Some people find the nicotine replacement therapy or e-cigarettes can be helpful. These may be available free of charge from your GP.
Experience: I started smoking when I was thirteen to impress a girl, and carried on even after we broke up. I got to age 15 or 16 and felt I needed to quit because it was expensive, and my running speed - which you would expect to increase over two years - actually went down (I ran track). Stopping was quite straightforward for me, as because I was underage my friends were getting me cigarettes. So I told me friends I was quitting and they shouldn't give me any more cigarettes. Just like that. They all supported me even though they were carrying on smoking; they were my friends and good people and they understood and supported me, even when I said I wanted a cigarette they said "no, you're quitting". I have been happily smoke-free for over three years now. James, 19
Here's how to get support:
- Contact Smoke Free Life Oxfordshire to get their expert help and resources and quit for good.
- Sign up with NHS Smokefree, and get the Quit kit, app, newsletters and everything else you need to help you give up for good.
- Go to your GP (Doctor). They will take you seriously and are keen to support young smokers to quit. Support available includes specialist advisers and free stop smoking medicines.
- Go to your local Pharmacy (Chemist). Many of them have stop smoking advisers and all can provide stop smoking medicines.
- Download the QuitSTART app which is just for teens, or sign up for text message support.
You can find lots more general advice about how to give up smoking from the NHS, including what to say if friends who smoke try to put you off quitting.
Crucial: Smoking cannabis has similar health risks to smoking cigarettes, plus a few more! Find out more about Drugs and Health.
It is illegal for retailers to sell any tobacco products to anyone aged under 18. It is illegal for adults to buy tobacco products for anyone aged under 18. Smoking is banned in all enclosed workspaces and public places at all ages. Smoking is banned in enclosed cars carrying children under the age of 18.
Alternatives to cigarettes
What about shishas, rollups, e-cigarettes and other alternatives to cigarettes?
All products which contain tobacco are damaging to your health, and no retailers are permitted to sell these to young people aged under 18. All products which contain nicotine are potentially addictive. Inhaling smoke is harmful to health even if it does not contain tobacco or nicotine.
- Shishas (water pipe, hubble bubble, hookah) usually include tobacco, and encourage heavy smoking.
- Chewing tobacco increases risk of mouth cancer.
- Roll-up cigarettes and pipes are harmful to your health in exactly the same way as shop-bought cigarettes.
- Herbal mixes (without tobacco) still involve inhaling smoke which is harmful to health.
No-one should be supplying any tobacco or tobacco-related products to young people under 18.
Take Action: Anyone selling tobacco products to those aged under 18 is breaking the law. If you're living in Oxfordshire you can report any crime to Thames Valley Police, but you will need to leave your name. If you would prefer to remain anonymous, you can report crime to Crimestoppers. The person breaking the law is the retailer, not the young person.
E-Cigarettes and vaping
Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are a new product. They are a refillable device which heats a fluid to create a water-based vapour which is inhaled (vaping). The vapour includes flavouring and nicotine. Based on current evidence they are less harmful to health than cigarettes. Because they are a new product, no-one knows exactly how serious the health risks are. Here are some of the risks:
- Nicotine addiction - One of the most addictive drugs, a Nicotine habit can be quick to form and hard to break.. You can get 0% nicotine vape mixes, which are a healthier choice.
- Smoking - Smokers often use e-cigarettes to help them quit, but evidence is mixed. It may not help, or even increase levels of smoking
- Accidental poisoning - Nicotine is a poison, and e-cigarette fluid is poisonous. Children and pets are most at risk.
- Health risks - E-cigarette vapour contains toxins. Nicotine affects how the brain develops. It is too early yet to tell if e-cigarettes cause cancer or heart disease.
Shops are not allowed to sell vaping products to under 18s, and if adults buy vaping products for under 18s, they are breaking the law.
Instant expert: The University of Leeds did a study which aimed to find out if vaping encouraged young people to try cigarettes. They found that there was a risk and that the risk varied according to whether or not they had friends who smoked (another common risk factor for starting smoking). Although more research is needed, this study does suggest that teens should be cautious about vaping.