10 Questions Kids Might Ask Their Parents About Smoking

If I can't smoke, is it okay to chew tobacco?

Believe it or not, smokeless tobacco is actually popular among high school children, especially boys. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that around 20 percent of high school boys in the United States use some form of smokeless tobacco. By comparison, only about 2 percent of high school girls do [source: Dowshen]. However, the idea that chewing tobacco, dip and snuff are somehow less dangerous than smoking is a myth. It's mostly the nicotine in cigarettes that contributes to the risk of heart disease, by raising heart rate and blood pressure. So chewing tobacco, which also contains nicotine, increases risks of heart attack and stroke, just like cigarettes [source: Mayo Clinic].

Chewing tobacco still poses a sizable risk of developing cancer, including cancers of the esophagus, mouth, gums, tongue and lips. The surgeries used to treat these types of cancers can leave you with a face that is scarred forever. Point this out: The idea of a missing jaw or a huge hole in the neck might be more dramatic for kids than stomach or lung cancer. Like you did when you answered questions about cigarettes, point to some of the more short term physical effects of chewing. For example, smokeless tobacco usually contains large amounts of sugar, so it causes cavities, loss of enamel and rotten teeth. It can also cause gum disease and tiny white spots inside the mouth called leukoplakia, an early indicator of mouth cancer [source: Mayo Clinic].