Resources for Parents and Teachers


When teenagers smoke parents may think "at least they're just smoking" as opposed to doing other drugs.  Research shows the nicotine found in tobacco products change the brain's chemistry, and young people can become addicted from the FIRST cigarette.  In fact, 88% of adult smokers report smoking their first cigarette before turning 18.


Smoking tobacco can lead to nicotine dependence, lowered cognitive functioning and increased risky behavior.  Tobacco use may be a signal that the student is willing to engage in high risk behavior and may lead to alcohol and other drug use.  The following chart shows the difference in behavior between teens that smoke tobacco and those that don't from the nationwide Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2009.


(CASA analysis of YRBS, 2009)

The 2009 PA Youth Risk Survey showed that 24% of PA high school students used tobacco in the past 30 days.  Six percent of the respondents reported using smokeless tobacco.  Preventing teens from smoking is the best way to reduce risk.  Parents and teachers are crucial in setting up tobacco-free expectations and environments and enforcing those expectations.


Students using tobacco:

  • Scored 10-25% less than non-tobacco users
  • Engaged in risky behaviors 3.25% times higher than non-smokers
  • More likely to have poor attendance
  • More likely to lose their train of thought while performing cognitive tasks (due to preoccupation with nicotine cravings)
  • Less likely to catch themselves zoning out

Students dealing with ADHD are more likely to start smoking tobacco, start at a younger age and are less likely to quit. - University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center



Marketing to Teens


Tobacco companies spend billions of dollars each year marketing their products.  Although marketing tobacco products to youth is prohibited, tobacco companies make their products readily available in flavors that appeal to kids and at low prices.  Read more here.


Parents and teachers should also be aware that tobacco products are not only cigarettes.  Tobacco packaged to look like mints or dissolving strips sold individually or in small containers, with candy flavors are ways the tobacco industry is getting youth hooked on nicotine.  Click here to learn more from the CDC for more information


  • Cigarellos - tiny cigars, wrapped in tobacco leaves or paper, no filter.  One cigarello is the equivalent of smoking 3 cigarettes.
  • Bidis - small, thin hand-rolled cigarettes, typically from India, can be flavored
  • Hookah - sometimes called water pipes - used to smoke specially made tobacco that is available in a variety of flavors (cherry, grape, sour apple)
  • Smokeless tobacco:
    • Chewing tobacco - a pinch or dip is placed between the gum and cheek
    • Snuff - made from ground tobacco leaves, inhaled through the nose, often flavored
    • Snus - moist tobacco in a small pouch, eliminates the need to spit
    • Dissolvable tobacco - Orbs, Sticks, and Strips - Camel brand, look like breath mints

What's a Parent to do?


Knowledge is Power: Teens & Tobacco


Pennsylvania's 100% Tobacco Free Schools Toolkit


NIDA for Teens

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