Smoking causes significant health effects in teens, including lung damage, reduced physical fitness, and the potential to develop severe nicotine addiction. Keeping an open dialogue with teens can help.

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Alexey Kuzma/Stocksy United

Teens are often unaware of the serious health effects of smoking, including e-cigarettes and vaping. These health risks include lung damage, cancer risk, and potential lifelong addiction to nicotine.

That’s why it’s so important to educate teens about the dangers of smoking and to know how to help them avoid or quit smoking if they start.

Here’s what you need to know about teen smoking, including risks, reasons, e-cigarettes, and how to help teens avoid or quit smoking.

Smoking can cause health problems, both immediate and long-term, among teens.

Immediate effects of smoking on teens may include:

  • cosmetic effects, such as foul breath, smelling of smoke, and yellow teeth
  • hacking coughs
  • poor endurance and physical fitness
  • increased risk of colds and flu
  • increased risk of respiratory illnesses, such as bronchitis and pneumonia
  • negative effects on lung growth and function
  • financial strain of purchasing cigarettes

Long-term health effects of smoking include increased risk of:

Teens are also especially vulnerable to nicotine addiction, which often continues into adulthood.

Research suggests teens can develop a lifelong addiction from smoking as few as 100 cigarettes. In fact, nearly 9 out of 10 adults who smoke cigarettes daily tried their first cigarette by age 18.

In addition, tobacco use during adolescence is associated with the use of alcohol and other drugs, commonly known as the “gateway” effect. Teens who smoke have an increased risk of other substance use disorders.

Smoking can also affect teen’s mental health. Teen smoking can harm adolescent brain development and is associated with depression and other mental health conditions.

Teens may also experience nicotine withdrawal symptoms when they stop using tobacco. Symptoms of nicotine withdrawal can include:

  • irritability
  • restlessness
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • difficulty concentrating

Teens may start smoking for many different reasons, including social and environmental factors. They may smoke for one or more of these common reasons:

  • Their parents smoke.
  • Their friends encourage or pressure them to smoke.
  • Marketing campaigns or media make smoking look attractive to them.
  • They want to try something new but don’t understand the long-term consequences.

According to research, the two strongest factors associated with teens starting to smoke are parental smoking and parental nicotine dependence.

Additional risk factors include:

  • easy access to tobacco products
  • peer and family influence, including lack of parental support or involvement
  • mental health conditions, such as depression
  • poor self-image or self-esteem
  • negative life experiences, such as emotional abuse or parental separation
  • substance use

Many teens mistakenly believe that vaping, e-cigarettes, or hookah may not have negative health effects or lead to addiction. However, all of these tobacco products are unsafe for teens and young adults.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most e-cigarettes — including vapes, hookah pens, and Juuls — contain nicotine, the same highly addictive and harmful drug found in cigarettes and other tobacco products.

E-cigarettes also may contain other harmful substances, including chemicals that can cause cancer, ultrafine particles that can damage lung health, and flavoring linked to serious lung disease.

While researchers are still learning about the health effects of e-cigarettes, some evidence suggests young people who use e-cigarettes are more likely to smoke traditional cigarettes in the future.

Teens may perceive hookah smoking as a safer option. Yet hookah tobacco exposes users to high levels of harmful chemicals and is associated with short-term and long-term health effects, including cancer and lung disease. Hookah smoking also increases the likelihood of teens smoking cigarettes.

As a parent, you can take many steps to help your teen avoid smoking. Effective strategies include the following:

  • Have an open and honest dialogue about smoking and vaping, and continue to check in regularly.
  • Educate your teen about the dangers of non-traditional tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and hookah.
  • Discuss peer pressure and how your teen can respond when friends offer a cigarette, e-cigarette, or hookah.
  • Set a good example by not smoking or quitting if you do smoke.
  • Maintain a smoke-free environment at your home and in your car.

If your teen tells you that they’ve tried smoking, learn the reasons why. Avoid using punishment. Instead, educate them about the dangers of smoking and support their efforts to resist tobacco use.

The most common tobacco product used by teens today is e-cigarettes.

In 2023, 10% of U.S. high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days. By comparison, about 2% of U.S. high school students reported having smoked traditional cigarettes.

Current tobacco use among U.S. high school students across different products, as reported by the CDC

Tobacco productPercentage of students who use the product
nicotine pouches1.7%
smokeless tobacco1.5%
heated tobacco products1%
pipe tobacco0.6%

Quitting smoking can be difficult, even for teens who do not smoke daily. Yet there are many effective steps teens can take to quit:

  • Create a quit plan to help you track your progress and manage withdrawal symptoms.
  • Consider the reasons for quitting, which can help you stay motivated.
  • Use tools and resources, such as
  • Avoid triggers, such as friends, feelings, or situations, that cause you to smoke.
  • Ask your friends and family for support.
  • Understand that you may not succeed in your first attempt, which is very common and that you may need to try again.

Is smoking bad for a 14-year-old?

Yes, smoking is harmful to children and teens, including 14-year-olds. Negative health effects include hacking cough, lung damage, and increased risk of lifelong addiction to nicotine.

What should I do if my kid smokes?

The American Lung Association suggests that you avoid using punishment. Instead, open a dialogue with your child about the dangers of smoking and offer support in their efforts to resist or quit smoking.

How long does nicotine withdrawal brain fog last?

Brain fog, or difficulty concentrating, typically lasts a few days after quitting smoking, gradually resolving within 2 to 4 weeks.

How do you clean the air when you live with a smoker?

If you live with a person who smokes, you can reduce secondhand smoke by opening windows and using an air purifier. Talk with the person who smokes about the harms of secondhand smoke and the benefits of a smoke-free home.

Smoking causes significant short-term and long-term health effects in teens, including lung damage, decreased physical fitness, and the potential for lifelong addiction.

The best way to help your teen avoid smoking is to not smoke or to quit smoking if you do, and to talk with them about the health risks of smoking.

The best way to help a child avoid smoking is to keep an open dialogue. Educate them about the dangers of smoking — including e-cigarettes, vaping, and hookah — and offer support if they need help quitting.