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Flaming Out This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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My mom was a smoker for 30 years. She never smoked in the house or around us. We didn’t know the damage she was doing to herself. Smoking a pack a day, she was setting herself up for a disastrous end. Recently she decided to quit. She knows it is best for her. I am so proud of her because I know what smoking can do. It is terrible for those who do it and those around them. Secondhand smoke is even worse than what smokers inhale because it contains side stream chemicals (which come off the cigarette when it is lit), on top of the regular chemicals. So, by smoking, you’re hurting others even more than yourself.

However, an unbelievable amount of damage is done to the smoker too. Cigarettes contain over 4,000 chemicals, and at least 43 of those are known carcinogens, which means they cause cancer. One chemical in cigarettes is benzene, which is used as a solvent in fuel and in chemical manufacturing. It is a carcinogen associ­ated with leukemia. Another chemical is formaldehyde, which is used to preserve dead bodies. It causes cancer and respiratory, skin, and gastrointestinal problems. Carbon monoxide is also abundant in cigarette smoke. It is a tasteless poisonous gas that is fatal in large amounts. This is the same gas that comes out of car exhaust pipes. Other chemicals in cigarette smoke are ammonia (toilet cleaner), acetone (nail polish remover), arsenic (rat poison), hydrogen cyanide (gas chamber poison), and tar, which deposits itself in the smoker’s lungs.

The worst chemical found in cigarette smoke, however, is nicotine, one of the most addictive substances known to man. It is a powerful and fast-acting poison. After ingesting nicotine, people may experience vomiting, nausea, headaches, difficulty breathing, stomach pains, and seizures. These are the same symptoms of those ­poisoned by insecticide. Nicotine can both invigorate and relax a smoker, depending on how much they smoke. It causes a rapid release of adrenaline, which explains the euphoria smokers experience after having a cigarette. Nicotine can also cause cancer, emphysema, heart ­disease, and stroke.

It is illegal to sell tobacco products to children under the age of 16, thanks to the Children and Young Persons Act of 1991. However, many minors still find ways to get cigarettes. Teens often get hooked on cigarettes if their parents, older siblings, or friends smoke, or if their parents don’t care if they smoke. Young people have many reasons to smoke: to be sociable, appear mature, show their independence, conform with friends, or ­enhance their attractiveness.

The benefits of quitting outweigh the benefits of smoking by a landslide. Twenty minutes after quitting, your blood pressure decreases, your pulse rate drops, and the temperature of your hands and feet increases. At eight hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal. After 24 hours, your chance of a heart attack decreases immensely. After 48 hours, your nerve endings start re­growing, and your ability to taste and smell is enhanced. After one year, the excess risk of coronary heart disease is decreased to half that of a smoker.

So next time you are asked that life or death question – “Do you want a cigarette?” – think about what you’d be putting into your body. If you already smoke, think what you’re doing to yourself. Quitting is hard, but my mom is doing it, just like millions of other people. Saying no now will set you up for a long, healthy life. Think about it.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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kelsee727 said...
Apr. 19, 2011 at 6:56 pm:
I've been trying since I was 8 to get my mom to quit smoking. I learned about it in first grade and have continuously told those that smoke the consequences. I NEVER wish to try smoking. Not ever. I know it doesn't really help me any since most of my family smokes those cancerous things. Nice article.
 
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sprinkshine said...
Jan. 15, 2010 at 12:52 am:
Unfortunately, some people don't care about themselves or their bodies.
 
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