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AMA Youth Brochure Series: Smoking

01 Jan 2001

Tobacco

Tobacco smoke contains many poisonous chemicals, some of which cause cancer.

It includes:

  • Nicotine - which is addictive.
  • Tar - which is the main cause of lung and throat cancer in smokers, and
  • Carbon Monoxide - which is a toxic gas that increases the risk of heart disease and other circulatory problems.

Light or ultra light cigarettes can give the smoker the same amount of tar and nicotine as a regular cigarette.

How you smoke tobacco also determines how your health will suffer.

Tobacco is:

  • Smoked in cigarettes either bought in packets or as tobacco that you roll yourself with or without a filter (rollies).
  • Smoked in a pipe.
  • Mixed with Marijuana (dope) and smoked using a bong or rolled in a joint.

Smoking is still considered to be ‘cool’ by many young people. Being cool is not about smoking but about being yourself and making your own decisions. It is important to be true to yourself and do what is best for you and not to listen to your friends or others who may encourage you to smoke.

Effects of smoking

  • Bad breath and smelly clothes and hair
  • Loss of taste and sense of smell
  • Stains on fingers and teeth
  • Skin becomes dry which can cause more wrinkles
  • Growth of lungs and physical fitness is affected
  • May develop ‘smokers cough’ and have more illnesses such as bronchitis
  • May cause painful and irregular periods for women
  • More likely to suffer from depression, use alcohol, marijuana and cocaine
  • Cigarettes are expensive. If you have to buy your cigarettes it means you have less money to spend on other things like CDs, clothes or going out

Smokers have an increased risk of:

  • Heart attacks and circulatory diseases
  • Cancer of the lung, throat, mouth, bladder, kidney, pancreas, cervix and stomach
  • Respiratory infections including pneumonia and bronchitis and the potentially fatal lung disease emphysema
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Blood clots
  • Impotence in men

Smoking and weight control

Some people use cigarettes to suppress their appetite in an attempt to lose weight. This is very dangerous and can lead to many health problems. Other people are concerned if they quit they will put on weight. If you do quit it is important to pay attention to your diet and avoid overeating sweet and fatty foods. Eating citrus fruit like oranges may help.

Passive smoking

Passive smoking is when someone breathes in the smoke from other people’s cigarettes either directly from the cigarette or from the smoker’s mouth. Passive smoking can lead to lung cancer, heart disease and cause problems for people who have asthma. You don’t have to put up with other people’s cigarette smoke.

Smoking and pregnancy

Smoking during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, premature or stillborn babies. Smoking has also been linked to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (cot death). Women who smoke may have more difficulty getting pregnant.

Giving up

  • Choose the right day and make sure it is not a stressful time (eg during exams or a family crisis).
  • Keep occupied for the first few days and spend time with your non-smoking friends away from smoky environments.
  • Remove all temptations. Chew gum and drink plenty of water.
  • Exercise each day and reward yourself for your efforts.
  • Talk to your doctor about nicotine replacement therapy and other medication that may help.There will be some withdrawal symptoms such as cravings, headaches, irritability and concentration difficulties. These don’t last very long and you are likely to feel better within a few days. Sometimes what makes it harder to give up is the pressure from others to smoke. Practise saying "no thanks".

Legal issues

  • It is illegal in Australia for tobacco to be sold to anyone under the age of 18.
  • Smoking is banned in government buildings (schools, offices, hospitals).
  • Smoking is banned on most public transport including buses, trains, taxis and planes, and is prohibited in some restaurants, pubs and clubs.

More information

  • Talk to a GP.
  • Call your local Community Health Centre (look under Health Services in the information pages at the front of the white pages).


If these services can’t help you they can usually give you the contact details of a service in your area that can.

Produced by The Commonwealth Bank and AMA Youth Health Advocate Program.

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Published: 01 Jan 2001