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So you think it's cool to light up and puff away at a cancer stick, do you?
And the younger you are, the more attention you tend to get when you're smoking a cigarette -- even disapproving glances give you some kind of satisfaction, as long as it's not an elder relative or family member who catches you doing it and reports straight back to Daddy!
Well, World No-Tobacco Day 2008 is coming up on May 31, so we thought we'd bring young smokers the lowdown on the ill effects of smoking.
According to research, nine out of 10 tobacco users start before they're 18 years old (www.kidshealth.org). And yes, with all the wordly wisdom of their teenage years, they believe that they'll never get addicted to it.
But the fact is that you do get addicted and your body suffers, because tobacco is poison and cigarettes are small doses of it!
Yes, yes, you've heard about the heart risks, the increased possibilty of cancer and emphysema, but that always happens to someone else, right?
Wrong! And besides these more serious concerns, here's a number of other health issues ranging from the trivial to the life-threatening that are sure to make youngsters sit up and take notice!
Bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease
Of course, smoking leads to cigarette breath, given that you're breathing in smoke and nicotine and most folks find the odour rather unpleasant. But it's very likely your breath will remain bad for a long time after you've smoked and may cause a permanent problem.
Cigarettes cause a build up of nicotine and tar on the teeth, tongue and inner lining of the cheeks; they also hamper the secretion of saliva, which leads to the growth of bacteria in the mouth (www.gumsurgery.com). These bacteria are the reason behind bad breath, so the next time you pucker up for a goodnight kiss after a date, you'll know the reason why your partner is holding his/ her nose shut!
Other than bad breath, the bacteria in your mouth can also cause unsightly yellow stains on your teeth and in some cases, gum disease.
Wrinkled, damaged skin
So a pimple on your face usually calls for drastic measures?
Here's a heads-up on what smoking can do to your skin -- you may be 25, but cigarettes could have you looking 10 years older!
Because smoking tightens the blood vessels, it does not allow the requisite oxygen and nutrients from nourishing the skin. As a result, your skin may acquire a pale yellowish tinge. Also, instead of remaining supple, it becomes more prone to premature wrinkles, because nicotine has a damaging effect on your skin's collagen and elastin too (www.mayoclinic.com).
Yes, smoking does affect your performance in the sack!
This is applicable to men, because as mentioned previously, smoking restricts the blood vessels, which in turn inhibits the flow of blood to the penis. As a result, erectile dysfunction, or the inability to sustain an erection, occurs.
Cigarettes can also create problems for those who are trying for a baby. Women smokers take longer to conceive -- chances of pregnancy are reduced by 10 to 40 percent. As for men, besides hampered sexual performance, smoking leads to reduced fertility -- it damages the sperm and causes a reduced sperm-count (www.atihealthnet.com).
Hampered overall immunity
Research has shown that smokers are more susceptible to illnesses and infections than non-smokers. You are particularly more prone to respiratory disorders like common colds, asthma, bronchitis etc. Also, cigarettes tend to kill one's hunger and a lot of youngsters smoke to curb their appetites, thereby depriving their bodies of vital foods and nutrition. This also leads to reduced immunity (www.kidshealth.org).
Life-threatening health concerns
If all the above hasn't convinced you to quit smoking, maybe the mention of the following life-threatening diseases will:
~ Researchers have found that even smokers who are in still their teens have severely damaged blood vessels and cells which result in chronic bronchitis, heart disease and strokes.
~ Smoking is the main reason behind various forms of cancer in the lungs, mouth, throat, bladder, pancreas, and kidney.
~ The more you smoke, the larger the chance that it will ultimately lead to your death. One in three smokers die as a result of the habit and several more suffer from debilitating diseases (www.youngwomenshealth.org). So look at it this way -- if nine of your friends are addicted to cigarettes, three of them will die if all of you don't quit!
So think twice before you light up again -- you'd rather kick the butt than kick the bucket!Photograph: Getty Images
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