Skip to content

Tobacco Use in Teens

Font Size

Topic Overview

Nicotine is only one of the thousands of chemicals in tobacco, but it is the major component that acts on the brain. The lungs readily absorb nicotine from the smoke of cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. The tissues of the mouth can also absorb nicotine when a person smokes cigars or pipes or chews tobacco.

Nicotine reaches the brain in seconds and has a direct effect on the body for up to 30 minutes. When a person uses tobacco regularly, the levels of nicotine accumulate in the body during the day and persist overnight, exposing the person to the effects of nicotine for 24 hours.

Recommended Related to Teens

Shun the Sun for Great Skin

Teens, if you want great skin now -- and 10 years from now -- then you need to shun the sun. Sure, you may think, "bronze is beautiful," but research shows just the opposite: The sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays make skin look old and wrinkled years before it should and can lead to skin cancer, even in teens. Yet not only is a tan harmful, one study shows it's "addictive," too. In an interview with WebMD, Seattle-based dermatologist Robin Hornung, MD, talks about her new study on college students...

Read the Shun the Sun for Great Skin article > >

In the body, nicotine acts as both a central nervous system stimulant and sedative. The person immediately feels the stimulant effect and pleasurable sensation. It increases alertness, relaxes muscles, improves memory and attention, and decreases irritability. The stimulant effect causes a sudden increase in blood pressure, breathing rate, and heart rate. The central nervous system stimulation is followed by depression and fatigue, causing the person to want another cigarette.

Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances. Some teens show early signs of addiction within days to weeks after starting to smoke. Repeated tobacco use causes a need for increasingly large amounts of nicotine to feel the same effect (tolerance). And repeated use causes withdrawal symptoms if the person tries to quit.

Smoking affects a person's appearance by causing bad breath, yellow teeth and fingernails, and wrinkles. Tobacco also leads to serious health problems, including:

  • Long-term (chronic) cough, shortness of breath, and wheezing.
  • Increased risk for heart disease, lung and other cancers, stroke, and emphysema.
  • Increased risk among women for having babies with a low birth weight, which may result in the death of the baby. Women who smoke are also at risk for menstrual problems, early menopause, and osteoporosis.
  • Increased risk among men for erection problems.

Signs of use

  • Cigarette odor on clothing
  • Cigarette or other tobacco product packages or wrappers in wastebaskets
  • Sudden need for a teen to go outside or to the bathroom after meals
  • Decrease in appetite
1

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 20, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

disciplining a boy
Types, symptoms, causes.
psoriasis
What it looks like.
fruit drinks
Eat these to think better.
No gym workout
Moves to help control blood sugar.
acupuncture needle on shoulder
10 tips to look and feel good.
Close up of eye
12 reasons you're distracted.
Epinephrine Injection using Auto-Injector Syringe
Life-threatening triggers.
woman biting a big ice cube
Habits that wreck your teeth.
embarrassed woman
Do you feel guilty after eating?
pacemaker next to xray
Treatment options.
caregiver with parent
10 tips for daily life.
birth control pills
Which kind is right for you?

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.