Smoking is a dangerous habit that increases the risk for cancer, emphysema, and heart disease, and can shorten lifespan by up to 10 years. Among young people, the short-term health consequences of smoking include respiratory and non-respiratory effects, as well as a dependency on nicotine that might carry into adulthood. Today’s teens have access to more than just cigarettes – they also use electronic cigarettes or vapes, and many teens aren’t as familiar with the health risks of these newer products.
Tobacco use is started and established primarily during adolescence. Other effects of smoking include premature aging of the skin, reduced physical and athletic performance, and a generally decreased quality of life.
As of now, there haven’t been many studies on the long-term effects of vaping on the body, but it’s important to remember it’s often still a form of tobacco. Vaping is not regulated by the FDA so there is a lot of variation in the substance that is used and some shops can even create their own product with varying amounts of tobacco. Vaping can be more appealing to teens since the tobacco can be flavored, but the vaping substance still contains irritants, genotoxins, carcinogens and propylene glycol, which turns into formaldehyde when heated in the vaping process. The vaping liquid is toxic if drunk.
It’s important to educate your teens on the risks of smoking of any kind. If your teen smokes, help them break the habit with tools such as support groups and lifestyle modifications.
The good news is that the benefits of quitting smoking go into effect almost immediately. Cone Health Cancer Center hosts a four week QuitSmart smoking cessation program that is open to anyone in the community who wants to quit the habit. This program offers support and helpful tips and tools to help people to quit smoking, and get on track to living a healthy lifestyle and improve overall wellness. The next series starts in January. To find out more and/or register, visit conehealth.com/classes or call (336)832-0838.
Spenser Beasley is a family nurse practitioner at Piedmont Pediatrics and a member of Cone Health Medical Group. Spencer received his Bachelor of Science in Nursing from East Carolina University in 2011 and his Master of Science in Nursing family nurse practitioner program in 2016.