Studies show 90 percent of adult smokers started when they were teenagers, and if present trends continue, 5 million teens will eventually die from a smoking-related disease. ABC News' Elizabeth Vargas sat down with seven teenagers to find out how they got hooked. The following is a transcript of the interview:
Elizabeth Vargas: What do you guys remember about how it felt the first time you smoked a cigarette?
Bobby: It was really strange because I remember my first cigarette, I didn't really cough. Or get sick. I didn't really like it that much.
Vargas: How many of you guys are starting to already feel the physical effects from smoking?
Amber: I know I am. In the morning -- boy -- whew! I try to tell you I will cough and cough. But then every, as soon as I wake up, as soon as I wake up, the first thing I do is grab a cigarette.
Vargas: You have asthma?
Vargas: And you're smoking how many cigarettes a day?
Jordan: More than a pack a day.
Vargas: Did it ever occur to you that maybe the asthma would be better if you didn't smoke?
Jordan: That occurs to me all the time and you don't, you have no idea how like stupid I feel. I definitely notice what you're talking about. When you wake up in the morning and you just can't breathe. Like your lungs are just shut.
Vargas: Why do kids continue to do it?
Bobby: Everything out there tells you not to do it. There's always a danger to it, but everyone says it's not gonna happen to me. And I'm in charge of my own life.
Vargas: Let me see a show of hands. How many of you guys really truly think you're addicted to nicotine, to smoking? [Five raise their hands.]
Alyssa: Yeah, I know I'm addicted. Everyday I say I want to quit and I can't. I can't because I get headaches from not smoking now.
Vargas: A lot of girls smoke to stay thin. Do you smoke to keep the weight off?
Teenage Girl: Um … during the summer, this past summer, I lost a lot of weight and it was through going to the gym, eating right and smoking. It kept me from going to get McDonald's, going, you know, all those fast food places.
Vargas: Statistics show if your parents smoke, kids are more likely to smoke. Does that ring true to you?
Jordan: Well for me it clearly has. There was a really long period of my life when I was completely against my mom smoking. I looked down at her for it. I was so disgusted by it. I'd throw my mom's cigarettes away.
Jacki: Yeah, I used to break my dad's cigarettes and hide his cigarettes from him. Then a few years later I ended up stealing them from him.
Vargas: How many of you here have somebody in your family who's been sick from smoking?
Samantha: Yeah, my great aunt smoked for like 60 years. And towards, you know, the end of her life when I went to visit her, you know she was on about five breathing machines and the sound was just something that was like a wake-up call for me. I was like, 'don't want to end up like this.'
Vargas: Amber, your mom has lung cancer doesn't she?
Amber: On one side of her lung she has like emphysema and then, like, on the other she has tumors and stuff. I don't know. I don't like to know a lot about it. I don't ask her about it.
Vargas: And she still smokes?
Amber: Yeah. She does.
Vargas: Doesn't that scare you ?
Amber: Yeah, it scares me.
Amber: I don't smoke a lot. I used to smoke a pack a day. I don't smoke near as much as I used to smoke. I've cut down like the pack that I have now, I've had for like three days.