teen smokingLately there's been an increased focus on teen smoking, especially as legislation going through Congress focuses on making sure that tobacco companies can't market products that appeal to teenagers. Why does it matter when people start smoking? Isn't nicotine just as addicting at any age?

Maybe. But what's the appeal of smoking after you get through the peer-pressure cool factory known as secondary education? According to the American Lung Association, 90% of smokers started before they turned 21, including our own president. With 800,000 teens becoming addicted to cigarettes annually, it's no wonder that the government believes that restricting flavored cigarettes and marketing that appeals to teens will save lives.

The really interesting (and scary) thing is that cigarettes may actually be more addicting for teenagers than they are for adults. Most teens who have smoked 100 or more cigarettes say that they are unable to quit, and have just as hard a time quitting as people who have smoked all their lives. Teens who think they can just smoke a little when they are young and then give it up later are fooling themselves and are in for a lifetime struggle with addiction.

In addition to this, most researchers agree that teens don't need to smoke 5 or 10 cigarettes a day to get hooked. Even one cigarette can leave teens wanting more, and even occasional smokers can start to get withdrawal symptoms if they try to quit. Although most teens who try just one or two cigarettes don't go on to become smokers, the risk of addiction is very real for anyone who experiments. Studies show that it only takes a day for the brain to remodel itself in response to nicotine - within a day the brain has more nicotine receptors and is more ready for the next drag.