Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Smoking Cessation Health Center

Font Size

Teen Smokers Show Early Signs of Heart Disease

Arteries Show Signs of Damage Even After Short Duration of Smoking
WebMD Health News

Aug. 28, 2012 (Munich, Germany) -- For teens who smoke, heart health troubles may start early.

Regular smokers ages 8 to 20 have substantial artery damage that can lead to heart disease, Swiss researchers report.

Julia Dratva, MD, MPH, of the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute in Basel, Switzerland, and colleagues measured the artery walls of 283 young people in that age group. About 11% said they smoked at least once a week, 15% reported smoking at least once a month, and the rest were nonsmokers.

Compared with the nonsmokers, both the weekly and monthly smokers had thicker artery walls. That's indicative of early atherosclerosis, a buildup of plaque in the artery walls that can restrict blood flow, Dratva says.

Even a Little Smoking Hurts

The link between smoking and thicker artery walls held true even after the researchers took into account other risk factors, such as whether the parents smoked.

"After a relatively short duration of active smoking, the [arteries] already show signs of structural changes," Dratva says.

"Atherosclerosis is the primary [cause] of most heart disease, and tobacco smoke is the primary cause of most atherosclerosis," she says.

American Heart Association spokesman Russell Luepker, MD, of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, says it's now well-established that heart disease and stroke risk factors in childhood track into adulthood.

"The fact that cigarette smoking is one such risk factor is an important finding. This is another of a thousand reasons why kids shouldn't smoke," he says.

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology.

Many Teens Smoke

About 45% of U.S. high school students have tried cigarettes, according to the CDC's 2011 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

Statistics show that about 9 out of 10 tobacco users start before they're 18 years old.

The young smokers in the study had been smoking for an average of just over two years. They were part of the Swiss Study on Air Pollution and Lung and Heart Disease.

These findings were presented at a medical conference. They should be considered preliminary, as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

Today on WebMD

hands breaking a cigarette
Is quitting cold turkey an effective method?
14 tips to get you through the first hard days.
smoking man
Surprising impacts of tobacco on the body.
cigarette smoke
What happens when you kick the habit?

Filtered cigarettes
an array of e cigarettes
human heart
Woman experiencing withdrawal symptoms

man smoking cigarette
no smoking sign
Woman ashing cigarette in ashtray
chain watch