Smoking cigarettes or cannabis can be addictive and is really bad for your health. Quitting can be very difficult. But there's lots of help out there if you want to quit smoking or help someone else stop.

What you need to know about smoking

There can be lots of pressure from friends and people around you to smoke. It might seem like everyone does it.

But smoking is highly addictive and can cause serious health problems, including cancer. Once you start, it can be really hard to stop.

Nicotine (which is found in cigarettes) has been linked to anxiety, so it isn't a harmless drug, and being addicted is often stressful and expensive.

5 good things about quitting smoking:

  • you're much less likely to get a serious disease or illness
  • you'll save lots of money
  • your teeth won’t get stained and your breath won’t smell bad
  • you'll feel less stressed out
  • you'll be better at exercising.

How to stop smoking

There are lots of different ways you can help yourself quit smoking.

Some people find that gradually reducing how much they smoke over time is enough. But if you do this, you've got to stick to it. And if you're addicted that can be hard.

Visiting your doctor can help you decide the best way to stop smoking. If you don’t want anyone else to know you smoke, you can ask them to keep it confidential.

Smoking and the law

You must be over 18 to buy cigarettes in the UK. If you’re under 16 the police have the right to confiscate your cigarettes.

It's illegal:

  • for shops to sell you cigarettes if you are underage
  • for an adult to buy you cigarettes if you are under 18
  • to have, give or sell cannabis to anyone. If you are caught with cannabis you could get a warning, a formal caution, or be arrested. You could even be sent to prison
  • to smoke in a car with a child.


Cannabis is a drug. It's sometimes known as weed, hash, skunk, pot, ganja, marijuana or puff.

People often smoke cannabis to feel like they fit in. However, cannabis can also make people who smoke it feel relaxed and happy.

If you smoke cannabis you might feel chilled out, giggly, light-headed, talkative or relaxed.

Cannabis also has side effects. It can cause people to feel panicky, paranoid and anxious.

Smoking cannabis can still cause lots of health risks just like cigarettes. If you have mental health problems it can make these worse.

It's illegal to possess, grow, distribute or sell cannabis in the UK. For more info check out Talk to Frank.

The side effects of smoking

Starting to smoke when you’re young can lead to a habit that will last your whole life. It can be extremely difficult to stop. Tobacco contains nicotine, which is highly addictive. Nicotine works just like addictive drugs such as heroin. It makes the body and mind become used to having it. You start to need nicotine in order to feel normal.

Smoking is also expensive. You might find yourself spending all your spare money on cigarettes or tobacco. If you quit you'll probably find you have a lot more money to spend on other things.

The health risks caused by smoking:

  • cancer – 90% of lung cancer is caused by smoking
  • emphysema, a type of lung disease where the tissue in your lungs breaks down
  • heart disease
  • asthma –  and if you already have it, smoking usually makes it worse
  • other lung diseases
  • not being able to get or sustain an erection (sometimes called impotence)
  • increased stress when you're addicted and you've not had a cigarette.

If you hang around people who smoke, even if you aren’t the one smoking, this can also cause health problems. You will breathe in their smoke, even if you don't realise it. This is known as passive smoking.

The things you'll notice if you smoke:

  • your clothes, hair and skin will smell of smoke
  • your fingers may get stained yellow
  • your teeth will get stained and smoking can cause them to rot if they're not looked after
  • your breath will smell
  • your skin will be dry and may break out in spots – when you smoke it restricts your blood vessels, so nutrients don’t get to your skin
  • smoking can damage fertility (the ability to have children)
  • you can start to cough a lot
  • you'll become out of breath more easily
  • your sense of taste will lessen over time.

If you're feeling pressured to smoke

It can be really hard to stand up to peer pressure and say no to your friends. Being pressured to do something you don’t want to do can make you feel anxious and lonely. You could try to practise being assertive, and if you’re feeling bad about it a lot, you could think about asking an adult for help.

You can also talk to Childline for support at any time. We'll always listen, we won't judge you, and we’ll keep what you say confidential.

How to help someone quit smoking

If you know someone who smokes and you want to help them quit, talk to them about it. It could be a friend or someone in your family. Whoever it is, it’s good to talk to them. But try not to force them to quit because they might react badly.

It can be difficult to help a friend, especially if they don't see their smoking as a problem. They need to make the decision to stop smoking themselves. If you tell them the reasons why you want them to stop, it might help them take the first steps towards quitting.

You can always talk to a counsellor if you want to talk through your worries about someone's smoking. You could also see what other young people in similar situations are saying on our message boards