Health Risks of Underage Tobacco Use










Tobacco in any form is harmful and can have serious health consequences.


Underage tobacco use is ILLEGAL.  One must be 21 years or older to purchase and use tobacco products in the United States.


Working together, we can educate our teens on the dangers of underage tobacco use and help them to make healthy, tobacco-free choices.


NICOTINE, an extremely addictive chemical, is present in all tobacco products.  Youth are likely to become addicted to nicotine faster than adults do. Underage use of tobacco products is especially risky, as nicotine can:
  • damage a developing brain causing issues with attention, learning, and memory
  • worsen a teen's irritability, anxiety, and impulsivity
  • narrow blood vessels and put added strain on the heart
  • and lead to an increased risk of addiction to other substances.
Smoking tobacco can result in reduced athletic performance.  Smoking can cause a person to run slower and not as far, as well as reduce the the amount of oxygen available for muscles.
Tobacco use can also negatively affect one's personal appearance.  What teen wants to have stinky hair and clothes, stained teeth, and bad breath?
Tobacco use has been linked to cancer, heart and lung disease, stroke, etc.  According to the American Cancer Society, tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.  1 in 5 deaths each year in the U.S. are linked to tobacco.  In fact, people who smoke, die approximately 10 years earlier than people who have never smoked.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts that if smoking continues at current rates, 1 out of every 13 of today's children will die prematurely from a smoking-related illness.


Inhaled cigarette smoke contains a mixture of almost 7,000 dangerous chemicals, including nicotine.  Many of these chemicals are linked to cancer.  In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 9 out of 10 lung cancer deaths are caused by smoking cigarettes or secondhand smoke exposure.

Smoking cigarettes harms almost every organ in the human body and can cause not only lung cancer, but also cancers throughout the body.  Cigarette smoking can also cause COPD, heart disease, stroke, vision loss, tooth loss, and type 2 diabetes.

Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS)

Also known as e-cigarettes, e-cigs, vape pens, mods and pod mods, ENDS have gained popularity in recent years.  These devices heat a liquid into an aerosol which is inhaled by the user.  This aerosol is NOT harmless water vapor.  It can contain carcinogens, metal, and harmful chemicals.  Inhaling secondhand vapor is also harmful.  Many e-cigarettes often contain high levels of nicotine.

The use of e-cigarettes is relatively new.  We are just starting to see some of its short-term effects, as numerous lung injuries/illnesses and deaths have been linked to its use.  Its long-term effects are not yet known.  One concern is that teens who use e-cigarettes will be more likely to smoke cigarettes in the future.


Smokeless Tobacco

Smokeless tobacco is not burned. Types include: chewing tobacco, oral tobacco, spitting tobacco, dip, chew, and snuff.

Smokeless tobacco contains nicotine and cancer-causing chemicals and substances.  Users can experience gum disease, tooth loss, and bad breath.  Using smokeless tobacco increases a person's risk of developing cancer of the mouth, esophagus, and pancreas.  Users also have an increased risk of dying from heart disease and stroke.


In the U.S., there are three major types of cigars sold: large cigars, cigarillos, and little cigars.  Unlike cigarettes that are rolled in paper, cigars are wrapped in leaf tobacco or other substances that contain tobacco.

The risks of cigar smoking are similar to that of cigarette smoking - heart disease and lung cancer.  A cigar smoker's body absorbs nicotine when the smoke is inhaled.  Because cigars are wrapped in a tobacco substance, nicotine can also be absorbed by the cigar smoker's lips and fingers.  Cigar smokers have an increased risk for gum disease, tooth loss, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema.



Hookah tobacco is smoked in a hookah waterpipe.  Hookah is also known as narghile, argileh, shisha, hubble-bubble, and goza.

Hookah tobacco contains nicotine.  As expected, hookah smoking has many of the same health risks as cigarette smoking.  The charcoal used to heat the tobacco can produce high levels of carbon monoxide and other dangerous chemicals.  Hookah smoke can cause mouth, lung, and bladder cancer, as well as clogged arteries and heart disease.

Escape Vape's Harmful Contents Video


Because underage vaping continues to be a great concern, Donovan High School SADD members/Juvenile Justice Council Student Ambassadors created a short video in the spring of 2023 to educate fellow students about the harmful contents in vape. They urge everyone to learn the truth, ESCAPE the VAPE, and stay safe! Iroquois County teens are too smart to be fooled by the vape industry!


Prepare to Quit

Creating a plan can make quitting easier.  Understanding why you're quitting can help.

  • Do you want to be and feel healthier?
  • Is tobacco use negatively affecting your relationships with family and friends?
  • Is tobacco use controlling your life?
  • Are you spending your time and money using tobacco instead of engaging in activities that you enjoy?

For help devising a plan to stop using tobacco, visit:

Smokefreeteen's Get Ready to Quit Guide


quitSTART is a free smartphone app from  It was created by the Tobacco Control Research Branch at the National Cancer Institute with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  This app helps people quit smoking with the use of personalized tips, inspiration, and challenges.

The quitSTART app is available for download from both the Apple Store and Google Play.

SmokefreeTXT for Teens

This program is designed for U.S. teens 13-17 years in age who are ready to quit smoking.  It is offered by the National Cancer Institute's and lasts 6-8 weeks.

Text QUIT to 47848.  After confirming enrollment, a teen will receive daily text messages to support them in quitting smoking.

Sources: American Cancer Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH), and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)