Tobacco use is a leading cause of death in the U.S., killing more than 480,000 people each year. So quitting smoking is always a good idea. And it doesn’t hurt to have a plan and a lot of help.

mr butts

This month, youth health groups across the country are joining together to speak up about the health dangers of using tobacco.

Called Kick Butts Day, the yearly event highlights a tobacco-free life. It supports community events to help young people kick the habit. This year, Kick Butts Day is March 15.

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is organizing the event. The non-profit organization also supports anti-smoking efforts throughout the year.

For Kick Butts Day, youth leaders, teachers and others set up events to:

  • Show the tobacco problem in their cities
  • Urge officials to protect kids from tobacco dangers
  • Help young people turn away from tobacco

Teens Are at High Risk

Each day, more than 3,000 kids under 18 try smoking for the first time. And about 700 kids become routine smokers.

Peer pressure. Young people often start smoking because their friends smoke. And they often continue to smoke because their friends smoke.

Other reasons teens start smoking include: 

  • Use of tobacco by brothers or sisters
  • Smoking by parents or other family members
  • Low self-esteem
  • Tobacco use promotional campaigns

Quit while you’re ahead. Chances of having lung cancer and other smoking-related illness depend on how much you have been exposed to cigarette smoke over your lifetime.

Those who started smoking as teens have a chance to stop smoking while they’re young. People who do quit when they’re young may avoid most of the long-term health risk caused by tobacco use.

Smoking Puts Nearly Every Organ at Risk

For teens and adults alike, smoking affects your total health. It is a major cause of many serious health problems, including:

  • Cancer of the lung, bladder, kidney, pancreas, mouth and throat
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Lung disease
  • Pregnancy problems, early birth and low birth weight
  • Gum disease
  • Eyesight problems

For women, it can make it harder to become pregnant and harm a baby’s health before and after birth. It can also affect bone health. Women who smoke are at greater risk for broken bones, for example.

Children exposed to second hand smoke have more health problems, like ear infections and asthma.

Other long-term impacts of smoking include:

  • Eye problems, including a higher chance of getting cataracts (clouding of the eye’s lens) and macular degeneration (damage to the retina)
  • 30 to 40 percent higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes for active smokers
  • Increased inflammation and decreased immune function

No Safe Tobacco Choices

Chewing tobacco causes cancer of the mouth, gum swelling and tooth loss. Cigar smoking causes cancer of the mouth, throat and lungs.

Because electronic cigarettes are a newer product, there isn’t as much research on their effects. But those products raise health concerns as well, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Adolescents who use smokeless tobacco are more likely to smoke as adults.

Quitting Reduces Risks

Stopping smoking will help lower the chance of serious health problems. And your body will start to fix itself as soon as you quit.

Just one year after stopping, your risk for a heart attack drops sharply. Within two to five years after quitting smoking, your risk for stroke could be about the same as the risk faced by a nonsmoker.

Once you quit smoking, your risks for cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder drop by half within five years.

Ten years after you quit smoking, your risk for lung cancer drops by half.

Get Started on Stopping

There are many resources and aids available today that can help you successfully give up the habit.

Free support is available at And find more resources in the American Cancer Society’s Guide to Quitting Smoking.

Your health plan may help you quit by covering the cost of medicine and counseling to support your efforts. Call the number on the back of your member ID card to learn more.