Young Teen Asks: Smoking, Is It Worth It?

New York, N.Y. Native Americans began smoking tobacco many centuries ago. They used it in rituals to heal and bind their tribe. When European explorers discovered the Americas in the late 15th century, they took tobacco back to Europe. Since then, tobacco or cigarettes have increased in popularity—a trend which continues today. Is smoking worth it?

Smoking mostly starts at a young age. Teenagers start to smoke because of peer pressure and to feel important. About 90% of adult smokers started as teenagers, estimates Dawn Titmus, an editor who writes frequently on this topic. In her article on New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s latest antismoking initiative, Danielle Tcholakian claims that 28,000 public high school students in NYC tried smoking for the first time in 2011. “Many teenagers take up smoking because they think it looks cool,” Titmus explains.

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Teenagers’ grades drop drastically when they start to smoke. Why? A U.C.L.A. study found “a disturbing correlation.” Researchers say as a teen’s nicotine addiction increases, prefrontal cortex activity decreases, which suggest that smoking may affect brain function.

“Such an effect can influence the ability of youth to make rational decisions regarding their well-being, and that includes the decision to stop smoking,” said Edythe London, the study’s senior author.

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Several studies indicate that smoking is also prevalent among low-income people (see this Gallup study, for example. In the book, The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton, examines two groups: low-income and the wealthy. Members of the lower-income group, the greasers, get into fights, take drugs and begin smoking at an early age. They also had no feelings for the importance of life. Is this a coincidence? Or does smoking affect judgment and one’s value of life?

Most people know the negative health effects of smoking, yet they continue. Smoking causes high blood pressure and stains the lungs and heart with black tar. It is responsible for 87 percent of lung cancer deaths and 30 percent of all cancer deaths in the United States, Titmus reports.

smoking 2Man smoking. © World Health Organization.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco kills up to half of its users. The organization also estimates that tobacco kills at least 3 million people annually. Studies predict that if current trends continue, smoking could kill around 8 million people annually.

Smokers damage not only their health but also the health of those around them through second-hand smoke. As the BBC reported, passive smoking causes an estimated 600,000 deaths annually. Of particular concern are the estimated 165,000 children who die of smoke related respiratory infections.

As one can see, smoking has a tremendous impact on one’s health and well-being. Why do smokers choose to smoke when they know the effect that smoking has on their body? Do they feel no remorse for harming others who are negatively affected by their smoking?

These questions have answers, but each answer is specific to that person. Is it worth it to start smoking to impress your friends or to distinguish oneself? Regardless of the reason, smoking is not worth it. Period.

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Oona Zlamany
Oona Zlamany is a seventh-grade student at Shuang Wen Academy, a bilingual Mandarin immersion school in New York City. She has attended Shuang Wen since she was three and is a fluent Mandarin speaker and reader. She has traveled extensively in Tibet, China, Taiwan, and various countries in Europe. She acted as an interpreter during her mom’s recent Fulbright project in Taiwan and has been awarded many trophies in citywide Chinese competitions. Her writings in Mandarin have been published in the World Journal. She dances at the School of American Ballet and has been on stage at Lincoln Center. She has also studied dance at Alvin Ailey. She has collaborated on two short films that have been shown at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and has starred in art films by Boru O’Brien O’Connell. She envisions a career in politics, possibly running for United States president.

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