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Smoking equals CHOKING
Author: Justin Quiroz

Smoking cigarettes is cool. At least that’s what 
people who smoke seem to think, and that’s what we see 
in movies and television. But I don’t think smoking is 
cool, and not because I hear about how bad it is for 
your health. I think smoking stinks. I couldn’t play 
basketball that well if I smoked. But for those of you 
who smoke, or are thinking you might look cool if you 
smoked, here’s a few details about those cancer sticks 
you put in your mouth. 
If you ever wondered what they put in cigarettes, as I 
have, you may be shocked to find the answer. They 
contain dozens of chemicals and, according the Centers 
for Disease Control, more than 60 of the chemical 
compounds are proven carcinogens, or things that cause 
cancer. They include carbon monoxide, which is found 
in car exhaust, acetone that is found in nail polish 
remover and arsenic, which is used as rat poison. 
Those poisons are so deadly that, according to, cigarettes kill more Americans than 
AIDS, drugs, homicides, fires, and auto accidents 
Smoking tobacco can also contribute to the biggest 
killers in America, Heart Disease and Cancer, said Dr. 
Jennifer Choate, an oncologist (a doctor who treats 
cancer), who works at Watsonville Community Hospital. 
The biggest killer in the U.S. is heart disease, which 
is caused by smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, 
family history and cholesterol. If you smoke and have 
any of the other contributors, Choate says you 
can “pretty much guarantee” that you’ll get heart 
The number two killer is cancer, with tobacco causing 
a large number of these deaths. Not only does smoking 
cause cancers you might expect like lung, mouth and 
esophagus, it also causes bladder and kidney cancer, 
which are hard to catch.
Choate said it takes 20 “pack years”—smoking a pack a 
day for twenty years—to get cancer. That may sound 
like a lot, but if you smoke two packs a day and start 
when you’re 15, you can get cancer by the time you’re 
just 25 years old. 
There are no tests for tobacco cancers so cancer is 
usually not caught until late stages. Even if you 
catch lung cancer in its first stage, there’s a 60 
percent chance you won’t survive. If it’s caught 
later, the survival rate drops to just eight percent, 
Choate said.
There are other terrible health problems that can 
result from cigarettes. Smokers can get emphysema, 
which Choate describes at the constant feeling of 
drowning. Some people with this disease have to take 
oxygen tanks with them everywhere they go. 
So if it’s so harmful, why do people smoke? For some, 
it’s that they see their parents smoking and think it 
must be okay. For others, such as one 16-year-old 
interviewed, it was peer pressure. Choate said that 
many girls do it to look cute. What they may not 
realize is that it can cause stained fingers and 
nails, bad breath, bad teeth and wrinkles. “You won’t 
look cute if you’ve got huge wrinkles by the age of 
28,” Choate said. Once people start smoking, they 
become physically hooked to nicotine; the second most 
addictive drug behind heroin. Then it’s really 
difficult to quit. 
For those of you reading this article that smoke, it’s 
not too late to quit. There are plenty of resources 
for teenagers hoping to kick the habit. 
- The American Cancer Society offers counseling 24
  hours a day, 7 days a week. (800) ACS-2345.
- Office on smoking and health. (800) 232-1311.
- Ready, Set. Stop! Online - WellMed’s self-paced
  smoking cessation program. 
- A free web-based smoking cessation study in English
  or Spanish. 
The X Pack is a self-help kit packed full of items to 
help young adult smokers kick the habit. It includes 
an ex-smokers handbook, a success-o-meter, quit card, 
preoccupation putty, chewing gum and cinnamon 
toothpicks. It is $6 plus shipping. Check out www.x-