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Smoking is a tough habit to break because tobacco, the stuff in cigarettes, contains a highly addictive substance called nicotine. Nicotine has the ability to dupe the body and the mind that it is part of the body’s make-up. As a smoker increases its nicotine intake at a more habitual pace, he also develops a constant need for cigarettes in order to feel normal.

Smoking restricts blood vessels. It prevents blood that carries much needed oxygen and nutrients from getting to the skin. This is the reason why many smokers often have an unhealthy and pale pallor. There are also studies that link smoking to an increased risk of getting a type of skin rash called psoriasis. It is said that a single cigarette takes about 5 to 20 minutes off the user’s life. One of the ugly things about nicotine is that the consequences of its poisoning occur slowly. It is only over the long term that smoking leads users to develop lung problems like lung cancer and emphysema. Nicotine can also cause organ damage and heart disease. Smoking even causes its users to age fast. Smokers not only develop wrinkles and yellow teeth, they also lose bone density, which increases their risk of osteoporosis. So it is common for smokers to look a lot older than their age. Smokers become less active because they lose lung power. Nicotine also increases the rate of the heartbeat but decreases blood circulation, therefore, even with just minimal physical activity, smokers experience shortness of breath.

Smoking also leave smokers with a condition called halitosis, or persistent bad breath. Even if a smoker brushes his teeth many times or gargles his mouth repeatedly throughout the day, the stench of nicotine would still linger. This is also the same for the smell of stale smoke that tends to remain on clothing, hair, furniture, and cars. It is very difficult to get the smell of smoke out.

Smokers may also become less active sexually. Not only does smoking affect sexual performance, it can also cause fertility problems in both men and women.

Smoking affects the body’s ability to produce collagen, a protein that protects and joins tendons and ligaments together. Therefore, smokers have greater risks of injury and they also have slower healing time. Smokers also have increased risks of illness. Studies show that smokers easily acquire illness such as colds, flu, bronchitis, and pneumonia. Smokers also have weaker immune systems, therefore contacting viral diseases is also common.

Although most smokers are adults, statistics show that about 9 out of 10 tobacco users actually start smoking before they are 18 years of age. So how sure are you that your children don’t smoke? The problem with nicotine is that, its effects are noticeable only after a long time of habitual use. But do you need to wait years before helping your children get rid of this addiction? Stealthily smelling their clothes or hair or breath will not earn you anything, except perhaps your children’s amused snickers or indignant anger. Children are smart enough to cover their tracks. So what’s the best way to find out if your kids are indeed smoking?

There are commercially available and rapid nicotine tests that can be used for qualitative detection of cotinine, a metabolite of nicotine, in human urine. These tests are based on the principle of extremely specific immunochemical reactions of antigens and antibodies. Results can be known after 3 to 5 minutes.

It is better to be safe than sorry. Think about it. After all, it is your children’s health at stake.