7 Questions Adolescents Have About Tobacco

Addiction researchers answer teens' questions about cigarettes and chewing tobacco.


The National Institute on Drug Abuse recently offered adolescents the first ever "Drug Facts Chat Day." Students from high schools and middle schools across the country submitted anonymous questions online—about alcohol, the brain, addiction and everything in between—to NIDA scientists, including some of the nation's top experts in substance abuse. The scientists then responded with personalized, nonjudgmental answers. Below is a sample of the inquiries that relate specifically to tobacco. All the questions and answers below are unedited.

Among the scientists were Larry Stanford, deputy director of NIDA's Division of Clinical Neuroscience and Behavioral Research; Steve Gust, director of NIDA's international program, research and training activities; Lisa Onken, a psychologist in NIDA's Division of Clinical Neuroscience and Behavioral Research who conducts research to develop treatments for people with drug dependence and associated mental disorders; Barry Hoffer, a neuropharmacologist and director of NIDA's Intramural Research Program; Kevin Conway, deputy director of NIDA's Division of Division of Epidemiology, Services, and Prevention Research; and Ivan Montoya of NIDA's Division of Pharmacotherapies and Medical Consequences of Drug Abuse. —Compiled by Sarah Baldauf

7 Questions Adolescents have about Tobacco:

faris - Manhattan jr.high - Both of my parents smoke am I at risk of lung cancer?

Larry Stanford - That's a very good question. That both of your parents smoke probably means that you are being exposed to what is termed as "second-hand smoke" and there is some scientific evidence that such exposure can lead to health problems in the people that are exposed. How serious those problems might be,are going to depend on a lot of things, though, including how much exposure there might be and for how long, For more information about smoking and its health effects, you might want to look at www.drugabuse.gov dm5003 - bms - how does diping give you gum and lip kansur

Steve Gust - There are many cancer causing substances in tobacco and having them in contact with your gums over time can cause cancer.Tobacco is also addictive.Did you know that tobacco is linked to an estimated 440,000 deaths per year?For more information about tobacco, go to http://www.drugabuse.gov/researchreports/nicotine/nicotine.html. soccerfreak - East Leyden - HOW COME IT'S SO HARD 2 QUIET SMOKING

Lisa Onken - It is hard to quit smoking because cigarettes are addictive - and it isn't just the nicotine in the cigarettes that is habit-forming. People get very used to smoking at certain times of the day, and in certain situations, and this habit is hard to break, even when the nicotine addiction is diminished (that may be why it is hard to quit smoking, even with nicotine replacement therapy!). But there are behavioral interventions that can help quite a bit. There are methods that people can learn, that are specific to their situation, about how to avoid the urge to smoke, and what to do when that urge is unavoidable. It is very important to learn these behavioral techniques - even if medications are also being used. For more information, check out http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/. And most importantly, please don't get discouraged! Marie - Jacksonville - can smoking casually still have bad effects on your body?

Barry Hoffer - We would need to define the word "casually" first, but regardless, nicotine is so addictive that it is like playing russian roulette with your body. Nobody can predict whether he or she will remain a casual smoker forever, and those addicted to tobacco were usually casual smokers at some point. To learn more about smoking and nicotine addiction please visit http://www.drugabuse.gov/DrugPages/Nicotine.html Alexis - Saint Stephen - Why is it that after just one cigarette, you become addicted?

Kevin Conway - Well, we don't know that this is really what happens. We do know that nicotine (the drug in cigarettes) is very addictive — perhaps more so than any other drug. So, it is dangerous to start smoking because it could quickly become an addiction.For more information about smoking and its effects, go to: http://www.smoking.drugabuse.gov