Harvard Mental Health Letter

Helping teens stop smoking

A number of options exist, but many challenges remain.

Despite widespread efforts at education and prevention, roughly one-quarter of U.S. teenagers are smoking cigarettes at least occasionally by the time they graduate from high school. Sadly, about three-fourths of those who smoke on a regular basis will continue smoking into adulthood.

In part, this is because adolescents are more vulnerable than adults to becoming hooked on cigarettes. When researchers compared people of different ages who smoked the same number of cigarettes per day, they found that young people ages 12 to 17 demonstrated higher levels of nicotine dependence than any other age group. Adolescents are also more likely to become addicted after smoking fewer cigarettes per day than adults.

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