Smoking and E-cigarettes: What Parents Need to Know About the Risks of Tobacco Use

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Many people think that the only people harmed by tobacco and nicotine use are smokers who have smoked for a long time. The fact is that tobacco and nicotine use can be harmful to everyone. This includes unborn babies and people who don't smoke.

If you smoke cigarettes, cigars, or pipes, or use (vape) e-cigarettes or use smokeless tobacco, such as chew or snuff, the best thing you can do for yourself and for everyone around you is to quit.

Here is information from the American Academy of Pediatrics about the many health risks related to tobacco use and tips for smokers on how to quit.

Facts About Smoking

Smoking and Health Problems

Teen and adult smokers may experience health problems including

Smoking also gives smokers bad breath, yellow teeth, and yellow fingernails; makes hair and clothes smell bad; and wrinkles skin.

Smoking and the Harm to Unborn Babies

Smoking during pregnancy or exposing pregnant women to smoke can lead to many serious health problems for an unborn baby such as

Dangers of Secondhand and Thirdhand Smoke

When parents expose their children to smoke, or let others do so, they are putting their children's health in danger and sending a message that smoking is OK.

Secondhand smoke is the smoke a smoker breathes out. It's also the smoke that comes from the tip of lit cigarettes, lit pipes, or lit cigars. It contains about 4,000 different chemicals, many of which cause cancer. Because of exposure to secondhand smoke, about 3,400 nonsmokers die of lung cancer every year and 22,000 to 69,000 nonsmokers die of heart disease every year.

Breathing in smoke can cause

Thirdhand smoke is harmful too. It is the smoke left behind—the harmful toxins that stay in places where people have smoked previously. Thirdhand smoke can be found in walls, on the seats of cars, and even in someone's hair.

The best way to protect babies and children (and other people) from smoke is to make your home and car smoke-free all the time.

Dangers of Alternative Forms of Tobacco

Many people believe that other forms of tobacco, such as e-cigarettes or chewing tobacco, are harmless. This is not true. Nicotine in e-cigarettes is addictive and can harm brain development. E-cigarettes and other tobacco products contain many dangerous chemicals and ingredients that can cause harm to the body.

Facts About Electronic Cigarettes

Electronic cigarettes, also called e-cigarettes, vape pens, or vaping devices, are products that produce an aerosolized mixture containing flavored liquids and nicotine that is inhaled by the user. E-cigarettes can resemble traditional tobacco products, such as cigarettes, or common gadgets, such as flash drives or pens.

These products have grown rapidly, particularly among youths (teens and young adults). Youth use of e-cigarettes is a significant public health concern.

Here are some facts.

How to Quit

Thousands of Americans have found a way to stop smoking. Quitting can be difficult, but it's not impossible. Here are some tips that might help.

Talking With Your Children and Teens About Smoking

Every day thousands of teens try smoking for the first time. Many young people know that smoking is not healthy but still think it's cool. A big reason for this is the media.

Smoking is the most preventable cause of death in the United States. As parents you can help prevent your children from smoking by


American Academy of Pediatrics Julius B. Richmond Center of Excellence


American Cancer Society

800/ACS-2345 (800/227-2345)


American Lung Association

800/LUNG-USA (800/586-4872)


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention



800/QUIT-NOW (800/784-8669)


Surgeon General


Surgeon General Report "Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults" (Consumer Booklet)


Truth Initiative


The information contained in this publication should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances. Listing of resources does not imply an endorsement by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP is not responsible for the content of external resources. Information was current at the time of publication.