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Tobacco and E-cigarettes

Young people will gain an understanding of the harmful effects of tobacco on the body, recognize some of the poisonous chemicals found in cigarettes, and analyze advertisements for cigarettes, e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to explain the influence they may have on young people.


9-14 Years Old


60 Minutes

What You Need

  • Interactive Tobacco Quiz
  • “Toxic Chemicals in Cigarette Smoke” handout (one copy per participant)
  • Sources of cigarette ads: Magazines, the internet, direct mail marketing
  • Internet access, computers, paper and printer if using online advertisements
  • Poster board, card stock or other heavy paper
  • Glue
  • Sample tobacco ads
  • Flip chart or white board


Healthy Families Newsletter

English (pdf)

Spanish (pdf)

To find out how this health safety lesson fits Physical Education and Health Education standards click here.

Lesson Overview

Tobacco companies use messaging, advertisements and now different flavors in their tobacco products to try and gain new consumers that could potentially be life-long users. By knowing the dangers, risk factors, and marketing strategies associated with cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and the relatively new e-cigarettes young people will be aware of and able to discuss reasons not to use any type of tobacco product.

*Note: This lesson can take up to several hours (each activity below can be done separately in less time).


What happens when you use tobacco:

  • It causes your heart rate and blood pressure to increase, and your major blood vessels to become smaller, making your heart work harder.
  • It slows your ability to heal.
  • It reduces the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream, making you short of breath.
  • It decreases your taste and smell.
  • It causes your blood to clot faster. Smokers have a higher chance of heart attack, stroke and circulatory problems.

Other facts:

  • Tobacco makes your teeth turn yellow or brownish in color.
  • Smoking makes your skin wrinkle more.
  • Your breath, hair, clothing and household furnishings all smell like smoke if you smoke or live with a smoker.
  • Secondhand smoke can have harmful effects on the health of your entire family.
  • Seventy-five percent of smokers have at least one parent who smokes.
  • Restaurants and public places don’t allow smoking.
  • Your furniture, curtains, and carpeting smell like smoke if you smoke in your home, which you don’t notice. (This smell is caused by thirdhand smoke.)
  • Cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, 69 of which are known to cause cancer. Many others are known to be toxic.

The human body was not designed to smoke.

Adding Up the Cost – Financial Facts

Smoking one pack each day, at $7.50 per pack costs:

  • $7.50 a day
  • $52.50 a week
  • $210 a month
  • $2,730 a year
  • $13,650 in 5 years
  • $27,300 in 10 years
  • $68,250 in 25 years.

Nationally, the total health care cost of smoking is estimated at more than $167 billion every year.


What is an E-cigarette?

  • An e-cigarette is a device used in place of smoking tobacco. It is also known as an electronic cigarette, e-cig or water vapor cigarette.
  • An e-cigarette is a small tube that is often made to look like a cigarette. However, they do come in many varieties.
  • All major tobacco companies own and make e-cigarettes.

How Do You Use An E-Cigarette?

  • Nicotine liquid or nicotine-free liquid (often called “juice”) is put in the e-cigarette.
  • Each time you take a puff, the liquid moves past a small metal coil.
  • The coil heats up and warms the liquid causing it to come out as steam that looks like cigarette smoke.
  • You breathe in and out the steam, which is usually called “vaping.”

Is The Steam Just Water?

  • The steam you breathe in and out is not just water. It is vaporized chemicals found in the liquid, along with any chemical changes from the heated metal.

Are E-cigarettes Safe?

  • E-cigarettes are not regulated (controlled). They are also not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • The chemicals used in the liquid do not have to be safe or listed on the label.
  • Private testing has found many harmful chemicals in the liquid including:
    • lead
    • arsenic (found in rat poison)
    • formaldehyde (used to preserve dead tissue)
    • glycol (used in antifreeze).

Testing has also found chemicals known to cause cancer in humans.

  • The chemical glycerin (used in soap and beauty products) has also been found in the liquid. At this time, there is no information on how breathing in glycerin will affect your body.
  • It is very common for there to be more or less nicotine that what is listed on the label. It is possible for nicotine-free liquid to still have nicotine in it.
  • The nicotine in e-cigarettes is usually not filtered the same way it is in FDA-approved nicotine replacement therapies (such as patches and gum). This allows harmful chemicals from tobacco to be in e-cigarettes.
  • E-cigarettes have become popular, very quickly. This means there hasn’t been time to get results on long-term studies on the safety or health effects of e-cigarettes.

Activity: Tobacco Quiz

  1. Begin with the interactive quiz about tobacco. Have youth take the quiz individually or work together as a large group and display the quiz on a large screen.

Activity: What’s Actually in a Cigarette?

  1. Tobacco is just one of many ingredients in cigarettes. They actually contain over 7,000 chemicals – including at least 69 that are known to cause cancer. Distribute the “Toxic Chemicals in Cigarette Smoke” handout to show youth some of the most prevalent examples.
  2. Have youth work in teams to find images from magazines or the Internet of products that contain some of the same ingredients that are found in cigarettes.
  3. Give each group a poster board and ask them to create a poster that raises awareness of the chemicals found in cigarettes. They may want to title it something like “That’s What’s In a Cigarette?” or put the names of the chemicals at the top and the images below that. Encourage them to be creative and also try to get the message across that there are lots of unhealthy and even dangerous ingredients in cigarettes.
  4. See if you can find a place to display the posters where others will be able to see them and learn from them.

Activity: Why Use Tobacco?

  1. We know a lot about how bad cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes and juices are for our bodies. But we also know that lots of people still choose to use these products. So why is that? Lead a conversation with young people about why they think some people choose to use tobacco. You can use these and other questions as prompts:
  2. Why do you think some people start using tobacco?
    • What’s appealing about it?
    • What do they think will happen because it?
    • What do you think they know about it before they start?
    • How old do you think most people are when they start?
  3. Why do you think people continue using tobacco once they have started?
    • Do most people want to stop?
    • Why or why not?
    • If they do want to stop, why don’t they?

Take notes on a flip chart or white board about the different reasons people give. See if you can agree as a group on at least three reasons people choose to use.

Activity: An Honest Tobacco Advertisement

1. Now that young people have learned about many of the ingredients in tobacco products and what these products can do to the body, it’s their turn to make an ad…a truthful one. Show some sample advertisements for cigarettes from magazines, the Internet or other sources. Talk about the meaning of the ads with the youth – or have them talk about it in small groups.

Here are some questions to use as a guide:

  • How is this company trying to get you to buy or want their cigarettes?
  • Who is the intended audience for this ad? How do you know who the intended audience is?
  • Do you think that having or not having the cigarettes will make a difference in your life?
  • Do you know anything about cigarettes that the advertisement is not telling you?
  • Do you think this ad would make someone want to use their product?

2. Have young people discuss what a truth-telling ad for cigarettes would look like.

3. Decide what format to use – print or video or audio – and have the youth work in teams to create their own honest ads.

4. Share the ads with one another and with others if there is a place to display them.


Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can continue discussing the negative effects and consequences of using tobacco and e-cigarettes.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog

Blowing smoke: understanding the effects of tobacco and e-cigarettes

Additional Instructor Resources

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