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Almost everyone knows that smoking causes cancer and heart disease; that it can shorten your life by 10 years or more; and that the habit can cost a smoker thousands of dollars a year. So how come people are still lighting up? The answer, in a word, is addiction.

Once You Start, It's Hard to Stop. Smoking is a hard habit to break because tobacco contains nicotine, which is highly addictive. Like heroin or other addictive drugs, the body and mind quickly become so used to the nicotine in cigarettes that a person needs to have it just to feel normal.

How Smoking Affects Your Health. Many of the chemicals in cigarettes, like nicotine and cyanide, are actually poisons that can kill in high enough doses. The consequences of this poisoning happen gradually. Over the long term, smoking leads people to develop health problems like heart disease, stroke, emphysema (breakdown of lung tissue), and many types of cancer — including lung, throat, stomach, and bladder cancer.

A lot of teens who smoke don’t think these things will happen to them, but statistics show that about 30% of youth smokers will continue smoking and die early from a smoking related disease.

The consequences of smoking aren’t very far off either. Nicotine and other toxins in cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and chew can affect a person’s body quickly. Teen smokers experience bad skin, bad breath, bad-smelling clothes and hair, and decreased athletic performance.

The only thing that helps a person avoid these problems is to pass when someone asks if you’d like a cigarette, and to quit smoking if you’ve already started.

Acknowledgement: This fact sheet was originally developed by our friends at TeensHealth

Dear Auntie, Summer party