It seems we can't watch television, listen to the radio or read the newspaper without hearing about someone being killed. In many cases, these folks were simply going about their daily routines. They didn't choose to end their lives. They simply didn't have a choice.

What's my point? While none of us knows how long we have, we have the power to make wise choices about death-inducing dangers. In this case, nicotine — a menace that claimed more American lives last year than World War II and Vietnam combined. To be precise: 430,000 lives — that's equivalent to three 747s being downed every day of the year without any survivors.

So many peoples' lives cut short by this instrument of death. What's even more tragic? Many of these deaths could have been prevented because everyone knows by now that nicotine kills. Yet we don't see this killer on the post office wall with a big WANTED label over its picture.

Here's the question: Why not? Why is a substance that can cause a teenager to become addicted to it within two weeks be so easy to get? It just doesn't make sense. No matter its disguise — cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco or snuff — nicotine is simply not safe.

Smoke Screens

Here are the cold, ugly facts:

  • Nicotine addiction can occur very early in life. The younger a person starts, the greater the chance that he or she will become a heavy smoker as an adult.
  • Seventy percent of all high-school seniors smoking today will be smoking in 2007 (not a good graduation gift to keep).
  • Teens are more likely to smoke if their friends or parents smoke.
  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among women and men; more than 80 percent of these cancers are caused by smoking.
  • There are more than 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke; at least 50 of those have been proven to cause cancer.

For more common questions and expert answers on the impact of smoking on the body, visit Sharecare.com.