The majority of smokers take up the habit in their early or mid teens. Over 80% of smokers start before they are 18.

Many people believe they can just have one or two and leave it at that but the reality is that it doesn't take long to become addicted to nicotine and smoking. Within a short period of time, you can experience the same cravings and withdrawal symptoms as an adult, as well as smoke as many cigarettes or more.

There are several reasons as to why children or teenagers start smoking:

  • Peer pressure plays an important part. Many children start smoking because their friends have tried it or smoke themselves.
  • Those children may have started as they have grown up in an environment where their parents, grandparents and older siblings smoke, and so they smoke because it is normal to them.
  • Other children start smoking as an act of rebellion or defiance against their parents or people of authority.
  • Some young people may also begin to smoke if they have low self-esteem. Smoking might get them into the "in crowd" and help them make friends. If they smoke, then they will be accepted by their peers.
  • Some young people have said that they smoke to appear older and more grown up, especially if they are surrounded by other young adults who smoke.
  • A number of young people are only experimenting with smoking and just want to try it so see what all the fuss is about. It is illegal for children to buy cigarettes under the age of 18.  Young people who smoke and get away with it without being caught, can get a thrill or feeling of excitement out of flaunting the law and doing what grown up adults do all the time.
  • Some teenagers may take up smoking because their favourite film star or pop star smokes. They may think that if they smoke just like their favourite idol does, then they will appear more glamorous, attractive or sexy.


Nicotine is the drug in a cigarette that makes it addictive. It is a stimulant which means it makes the heart beat faster and is from the same drug family as caffeine (coffee). However, it is the other chemicals in the cigarette that damage your health.

People who smoke regularly are more likely to develop certain illnesses when they get older. Some of the more common illnesses include lung cancer, heart disease and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, is a progressive disease that makes it hard to breathe).

There are some effects of smoking that can appear quite soon after taking up the habit, these include:

  • Higher levels of Carbon Monoxide (a poisonous gas also present in car exhaust fumes) which can lead to a lack of energy
  • Less efficient lungs which leads to getting out of breath more quickly (for example when playing sport or running for a bus)
  • More frequent coughs, colds, earache and sore throat
  • Makes asthma and allergies worse
  • Lower resistance to infection

There are also other physical effects of smoking that happen no matter how old you are, including:

  • damaged tastebuds
  • stained teeth and skin
  • ageing of the skin

Benefits of quitting

20 mins – Your blood pressure and pulse return to normal. Circulation improves – especially in your hands and feet
8 hours – Your blood oxygen levels return to normal and your chance of having a heart attack falls.
24 hours – Carbon Monoxide leaves your body. Your lungs start to clear out mucus and debris
48 hours – Your body is now nicotine free. Your sense of taste and smell have improved
72 hours – Your breathing is easier. You have more energy.
2-12 weeks – Circulation is now improved throughout your body. It is now easier to exercise.
3-9 months – Your lungs are more efficient now. Say goodbye to coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing.

Where to go to quit

Many of the schools in Colchester and Tendring have their own trained stop smoking advisers so if you want to speak to someone at school just look for the posters around school or ask your teacher to find out who the adviser is.

Many schools have a weekly drop-in with the school nurse so you could speak to him or her about wanting to stop.

If you live near Colchester then there is a weekly drop-in just for young people at Colchester Cornerstone in Sir Isaacs Walk (near Debenhams and TK maxx). This is on a Thursday between 4 and 5. Alternatively if you want to see an adviser one to one then just call 0800 7312 656 and make an appointment or come along to one of the other drop-ins:
Thursdays 5.30 – 6.30
Saturdays 12.15 – 1.15

There are lots of pharmacies in the Colchester and Tendring areas that offer a stop smoking service. You just need to go in and make an appointment. Often you can see someone straight away.

You can also see someone at your doctor’s surgery. Just ring your local surgery and make an appointment with their trained adviser.

In addition there are lots of trained advisers who work in youth groups and community centres who might be able to help you.

How to quit

There are lots of things you can do to help yourself quit.
Going to see a trained adviser and getting support when you want to quit makes you 4 times more likely to succeed. Call 0800 7312 656

An adviser will help you to decide if you want to quit ‘cold turkey’ which means just stopping smoking without any nicotine replacement or if you have become quite addicted to nicotine you might want to use a product to help you give up the cigarettes.
There are many different things available including:

  • Inhalator
  • Gum
  • Lozenges (tablets to suck)
  • Patches

You should always get some advice from a trained adviser before taking Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) because you might not need to use it.

If you don’t want to see an adviser and want to quit on your own, try to get a friend to quit with you and try and help each other. Write down all the reasons you want to quit and prepare a day to quit. Think about how you are going to ‘say no’ when offered a cigarette and find something you will do instead of smoking, e.g. text someone or play a particular tune on your ipod.

Exercise really helps with cravings so make sure you get dancing, walking or cycling…..and remember a craving only lasts for 3 minutes.

Use the 4D’s - Delay…..having a fag, distract…yourself, deep…. breathing, drink…..water

For more information on smoking go to: 


NHS Choices