Learn about...

What is Tobacco? What is Vaping? What about Cannabis? Find out more.
How much is too much? Find out about mental health and drinking.
What are they? Feel under pressure? What about drugs and sex?


Socialising, trying new things and having a good time are all things that most teenagers are interested in, and that makes sense, but that doesn’t mean that you have to start smoking. We all know it is highly addictive and can cause serious health issues!! Saying no can seem hard (scroll to the bottom of the page for tips on this) and quitting can seem impossible – but it’s not! Read on for tips…

What happens when you stop smoking?

Why do people start smoking?

We’re not saying that these are all the reasons why people start smoking, but these could be some of them:

Your friends have started smoking and you want to join in with them. It’s OK to say no – you are your own person and you can make your own choices.

Your mates all smoke on their break at work/outside at clubs and you want to hang out with them. This can feel so frustrating! Chances are there are other work colleagues who don’t head outside for a cigarette break? If you choose to hang outside with your mates whilst they’re smoking remember that passive smoking is still harmful. If you’re at a club – just keep dancing/get some real fresh air?

You feel stressed and feel like smoking helps. This is a myth – smoking can make you feel more stressed in the long term as you become addicted and when you can’t smoke you can feel ‘on edge’. Try other wellbeing ideas.

Risks caused by smoking

Appearance: Stained teeth, wrinkles (particularly around your lips) and ageing sooner than you’d like, yellow fingers, harder to stay in shape/exercise, constant coughing and sometimes wheezing.

Mental Health: When you’re addicted and you’ve not had a cigarette this can cause stress. Smoking also affects your taste (not enjoying food as much).

Health: Cancer – 90% of lung cancer is caused by smoking (in 2016 35,620 people died from lung cancer), emphysema – a type of lung disease where the tissue in your lungs breaks down, heart disease, asthma – if you already have asthma it makes it worse, not being able to get or sustain an erection (sometimes called impotence).

Financial: Smoking costs a fortune! If you smoke 5 cigarettes a day you are spending nearly £800 a year! That’s a pretty epic holiday. Use this calculator to find out how much you could save: https://www.nhs.uk/smokefree/why-quit/cost-calculator

Social and romantic: Heading to designated smoking areas by yourself, having breaks at work and the taste of smoke to your partner –  are all social barriers.

Even if you don’t smoke but you hang around with people who do, sometimes this can also cause health problems as you will still breathe in smoke, even if you don’t realise it. This is called passive smoking.

What is Vaping?

Vaping can be a good way to cut down and help quit smoking as there are less known risks with it, however scientists are still figuring out what the long term effects of vaping are as it’s so new!

One thing we do know is that some vape liquids have additional chemicals included to make them more appealing, such as Diacetyl – a chemical that is used in popcorn to give it a buttery taste. Inhaling this chemical can lead to scarring of the lungs known as ‘Popcorn lungs’ – named after hundreds of popcorn workers inhaled too much of this chemical and damaged their lungs. Watch this video to find out more about smoking vs vaping.

Compared to smoking though you can choose the levels of nicotine in the vapes so that you can slowly reduce your intake and this might help you quit smoking altogether.

More information on E-Cigarettes.

What is Cannabis?

Pot, Weed, Skunk, Northern Lights, No.5, NL5 x Haze, Super Silver Haze, White Widow, White Rhino, White Shark, Cheese, Amnesia Haze…

Cannabis is a drug that comes from a bushy plant found wild in most parts of the world. In Western countries it is generally used as a relaxant and mild intoxicant.

Using cannabis causes a number of psychological and physical effects including diminished memory, attention, confusion and lack of motivation plus increased pulse rate, decreased blood pressure, bloodshot eyes, increased appetite, tiredness and occasionally, dizziness.

The main active chemical in it is tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC for short).

Cannabis is SO common but it’s important to remember it is a drug and that it can cause harm. Find out how cannabis can affect your health here.

There is no such thing as fair trade or ethical cannabis – someone somewhere is making a profit. Check out this animation below and get the facts.

Ethical Cannabis?

Health risks caused by Cannabis

Short term effects of Cannabis

  • If you’re not used to it, you may feel faint or sick.
  • It can make you sleepy and lethargic
  • It can affect your memory.
  • It makes some people feel confused, anxious or paranoid, and some experience panic attacks and hallucinations – this is more common with stronger forms of cannabis like skunk or sinsemilla.
  • It interferes with your ability to drive safely.

Long term effects of Cannabis:

  • If you use cannabis regularly, it can make you demotivated and uninterested in other things going on in your life, such as education or work.
  • Long-term use can affect your ability to learn and concentrate. It can also negatively affect your friendships, relationships and career prospects.
  • If you stop using it, you may get withdrawal symptoms, such as cravings, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, irritability and restlessness.
  • If you use Cannabis with tobacco you’re likely to get addicted to nicotine and risk getting tobacco-related diseases such as cancer and coronary heart disease.

Cannabis and mental health

Regular cannabis use increases your risk of developing a psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia. A psychotic illness is one where you have hallucinations (seeing things that aren’t really there) and delusions (believing things that aren’t really true).

Your risk of developing a psychotic illness is higher if:

  • You start using cannabis at a young age.
  • You smoke stronger types, such as skunk
  • You smoke it regularly.
  • You use it for a long time.
  • You smoke cannabis and also have other risk factors for schizophrenia, such as a family history of the illness.

Cannabis also increases the risk of a relapse in people who already have schizophrenia, and it can make psychotic symptoms worse.

Do you need help with Smoking?


People drink alcohol for many different reasons, to celebrate, to be social, to cope with sadness or mental illness, however fun it may seem at the time there are risks to be considered.

Drinking too much?

How do you know if you are drinking too much? Complete a quick confidential self-assessment here!

Want to find out the recommended guidelines? Click here. 

Remember there is NO safe limit for under 18’s. There are many reasons for this, such as, your brain is still developing and this could affect learning and memory. Alcohol is also linked to depression and early drinking could lead to serious alcohol related problems in the future.

How do you know when you’re safe to drive? Use the morning after calculator to find out. Driving or attempting to drive while above the legal limit could lead to 6 months imprisonment, an unlimited fine and / or a driving ban for at least a year.

Drinking can be seen as a safe drug as it’s common and legal, but there are a lot of health risks associated with drinking. Get clued up here!

What is normal?

There is no normal, everyone drinks different amounts and everyone is affected by it differently.

See here for how alcohol affects your health. Find out about mixing alcohol with other drugs here:

Stress drinking?

Using drugs (including alcohol) to cope with stress is a short term solution which only masks the problem, and can actually increase stress levels.

Find out how to cope with stress here.

Stressed about exams? Head on over to our #NOSTRESSSUCCESS campaign which helps identify stress levels during studying, ideas on how to cope, videos to help and information on what you can do after your GCSEs.

Free Apps

Drinks Meter – Anonymous, personalised feedback on your drinking.

Drinkaware – Track & calculate your units.

Drink Coach – Unit, calorie & cost calculator, 7 day summaries, goals, reminders.

Do you need help with drinking?


This section will look at different categories of drugs, including medication type drugs, what used to be called ‘Legal Highs’, sex and wellbeing.

What are they?

A drug is any substance (with the exception of food and water) which, when taken into the body, alters the body’s function either physically and/or psychologically. Drugs may be legal (e.g. alcohol, caffeine and tobacco) or illegal (e.g. cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine and heroin).

Some people become depressed, angry, aggressive, sleepy, unmotivated, paranoid, anxious or talkative when using drugs.

Drug use can also lead to social and emotional problems and negative effects on relationships with family and friends.

Drugs and wellbeing

Just because a drug is legal doesn’t mean it’s safe. Find out about legal drugs here.

Some people use drugs to try to make them feel better physically or psychologically, because they are addicted or because they enjoy it, and for various other reasons. If you need help with mental health and wellbeing speak to your GP, find out how RU-OK can help you here and visit Find Get Give to speak to someone.

Feeling under pressure?

Socialising, trying new things and having a good time are all things that most teenagers are interested in, and that makes sense, but that doesn’t mean that you have to drink alcoholtake drugs and smoke. That can feel easier said than done if the friends and people around you are all doing these things, so what can you do?

Find ways of saying it’s not your thing that don’t leave you feeling isolated.

Try and mix with different people. There will be others out there who feel the same as you or who are more accepting of different ways of hanging out. Meet new people.

Brighton and Hove has lots of activities, groups and events for young people.

Thrill-seeking? Tried water-sports? Rock climbing? These have an added bonus of increased wellbeing and fitness points!

Remember – listen to your gut and if you feel uncomfortable in a situation it’s okay to say “no" or make excuses and step away… you can make your own choices!!

What about drugs and sex?

Drugs (which includes alcohol) affect your judgement and lower your ability to make safe choices, this includes engaging in risky sexual behaviour.

Sexual Activity and Consent

Consent means agreeing to do something. When it comes to sex, this means someone agreeing to take part in a sexual activity. This includes any kind of sexual activity, like kissing or fondling. When people are drunk or high, they are more vulnerable to engaging in sexual activity without having given or received consent. Sexual activity, at whatever age without consent is against the law. 

Only condoms can protect you from STI’s (and you can get these for free here). Check yourself out at the free, confidential clinics (want to know what getting tested is like? Honestly it’s SO easy – watch this video!!)

If you have had unprotected sex and want help/find out your options with emergency contraception and testing find out about the free drop-in centers and GP surgeries here.

Be prepared, get clued up and protect yourselves.

Do you need help with drugs?

Need some direction?

We can show you where to go for advice

Support and advice in Brighton for 12-25 year olds