by Madeleine Richey

Cigarettes are small. They fit perfectly into your hand, right between your fingers, and often you can find groups of smokers lingering together outside the doors of public buildings, around the little ashtrays that seem to become more and more scarce nowadays, engaging in conversation while savoring the smoke.

It seems harmless, though I’m sure you know otherwise thanks to the anti-smoking propaganda that has circulated over the years. But some of us are still tempted to try a cigarette. Just one. It’s so small. One can’t hurt. You can’t become addicted with just one. The fact is, most people start that way.

But there are immediate and long-term health effects from smoking that you might not realize. We’re often shown the extreme cases as deterrents, but there is always a voice we like to call ‘common sense’ in the back of our head, nagging at us. “That’s not going to happen to you. Look how many people smoke and it never happens to them.” This is, in a way, true. The vast majority of smokers never experience the issues displayed as the fate that awaits us if we choose to smoke, but they still suffer nonetheless.

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention website, smoking carries with it risks that are by no means small.

  • Smoking is estimated to be the cause of 90% of lung cancer deaths in men, and 80% in women.
  • Smoking is the cause of up to 90% of all deaths from chronic obstructive lung disease.
  • If smoking were eradicated, one out of three cancer related deaths in the USA would not occur.
  • Other factors, such as increased risk of developing possibly fatal health problems are as follows:
  • The risk of developing coronary heart disease in smokers vs. non-smokers is 2-4 times higher.
  • Women who smoke risk developing lung cancer 13 times more often than women who don’t.
  • Men who smoke risk developing lung cancer 23 times more often than men who don’t.

These risks should not be taken lightly. And when you do develop lung cancer, or some other health problem, either directly or indirectly as a result of smoking, who do you have to blame but yourself?

Besides the obvious risk of lung cancer, there are many other cancers that have been proven to have an increased risk of development with the habit of smoking. Some of these are: bladder, stomach, pancreatic, esophagus, cervix, mouth, and kidney.

Another risk, which carries with it the chance of damaging, if not taking, two lives, is that of pregnant women who smoke. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, smoking can damage the reproductive system and lead to infertility. It could also lead to complications such as low birth weight, stillbirth (when the child is born dead), premature birth, or SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.)

The effects of smoking stated above are just a few of the many complications that can result from smoking. That small cigarette is actually a death stick. If you breathe in the smoke now, chances are that later on you won’t be breathing at all.

Madeleine, 16, says: “I want to help people and I want to tell stories, especially the stories of people who don’t have a voice of their own. Some of them have faces we recognize–the faces of family and friends, maybe even the face we see when we look in the mirror. I want to share with you the information I have about all these things, so that maybe you can recognize them and walk away from danger or help out a friend who doesn’t see it or saw it too late.” Visit her blog at

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