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Cigarette Smoking (cont.)

How Can Parents Prevent Children from Smoking?

Prevention can be easy; simply do not start to smoke cigarettes or use any other tobacco products. Unfortunately, quitting is often very difficult. Most smokers begin to smoke as teenagers.

Parents still have the biggest impact on their children's decision whether to smoke. The best way to prevent a youngster from taking up smoking is to have parents who don't smoke. Children from smoking households are more likely to begin smoking than children from nonsmoking households.

  • Much attention has been focused on the influence of tobacco company advertising on encouraging young people to smoke.
  • Although cigarette commercials have been banned from television for over 30 years, tobacco products remain among the most heavily marketed products. According to the American Lung Association, the tobacco industry spent an estimated $12.49 billion on advertising in 2006. Some states place restrictions on the type and locations of tobacco advertising, and legislation enacted in 2009 gave the U.S. FDA strong authority to regulate tobacco products. The FDA requires prominent health warnings on all cigarette packaging and advertisements in the United States.
    • Studies have shown that youth are particularly susceptible to tobacco marketing campaigns.
    • In the past, cigarette use by actors in popular films was a means to portray smoking as sophisticated and glamorous.
    • Although denied by tobacco companies, the use of cartoon animals and the like in advertising campaigns appeals to youngsters.
    • Counter-advertising by various antismoking advocacy groups may provide some balance, but their advertising budgets pale beside those of tobacco companies.
    • Schools generally provide education on the use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances, but their impact is unclear.
    • Increasing the taxes on cigarettes, and hence their price, has been shown to reduce tobacco consumption, especially among adolescents.

What Is the Life Expectancy of Cigarette Smokers?

For smokers, quality and length of life depends on the number and severity of smoking-associated illnesses they may develop and if they have other medical conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Other lifestyle factors, for example, use of alcohol or other drugs also make a difference in long-term outcomes for smokers. For smokers who quit, projected health and life expectancy improve markedly at any age of life.

  • Smokers who quit before age 50 years have half the risk of dying in the next 15 years compared with those who continue to smoke.
  • Quitting smoking substantially decreases the risk of lung, larynx, esophageal, oral, pancreatic, bladder, and cervical cancers. For example, 10 years after quitting, an ex-smoker has lower risk of lung cancer compared to a continuing smoker. Continued smoking abstinence continues to lower the risk.
  • Quitting lowers the risk for other major diseases including coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease. The increased risk of coronary heart disease halves after 1 year of abstinence. After 15 years, the risk of coronary heart disease approximates that of someone who never smoked.
  • Women who stop smoking before pregnancy, or during the first 3 or 4 months of pregnancy, reduce their risk of having a low birth weight baby to that of women who never smoked.
  • The health benefits of quitting far exceed any risks from the average 5-pound weight gain that may follow quitting.

Medically reviewed by Avrom Simon, MD; Board Certified Preventative Medicine with Subspecialty in Occupational Medicine


American Cancer Society. Cigarette Smoking.

American Lung Association. Tobacco Industry Marketing.

Centers for Disease Control. Tobacco Use. Cigarette Warning Labels.

Gundel, L., et al., Formation of carcinogens indoors by surface-mediated reactions of nicotine with nitrous acid, leading to potential thirdhand smoke hazards. PNAS, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0912820107, 2010

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/21/2017

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