How Cigarettes Affect Youth

July 4, 2012 0 Comments

Campaigns to prevent and decrease youth smoking are some of the most supported and vocal in the United States. They receive such attention because young people are simultaneously the most vulnerable to outside influence and stand to suffer the worst damage from taking up cigarette smoking at an early age. These campaigns have focused on things like depictions of smoking in movies, television advertisements, and increasing awareness of the risks of smoking.

While some studies suggest youth and young adult smoking is on the decline, finally, the U.S. Surgeon General recently released a report calling under-aged smoking a “pediatric epidemic.” According to the study, nearly one in four high school seniors consider themselves smokers. Clearly, the risk of youth smoking-related illness remains high.

People who start smoking young find quitting more difficult. This is at least on par for the worst adverse effect of youth smoking. Because the benefits of beating smoking increase over time due to the way nicotine causes cumulative damage, factors that significantly impair a person’s ability to quit are indirectly responsible for many smoking-related illnesses. Statistics show that people who start smoking before 21 have a higher likelihood of failure, even if they express a stronger desire to quit. This could be the result of mental conditioning starting at such an early age as well as the increased vulnerability that comes with still being in the process of developing physically.

Of course, the fact that youth are still developing leads to a number of other serious health risks for those who smoke. The World Health Organization found that they are more likely to have sought medical help for an emotional or psychological problem, and are three times more likely to consume alcohol and 22 times more likely to use cocaine. These are problems that exacerbate the more obvious effects, like increased risk of heart and lung problems due to having smoked longer, and a significantly higher likelihood of developing some form of cancer due to prolonged exposure to carcinogens.

Youth also experience dramatic and more immediate effects from smoking, such as impaired physical performance and shortness of breath due to reduced lung function, and social problems that stem from stained teeth, bad breath, and the lingering smell of tobacco on clothing, skin, and hear. Because students in high school are more likely to be involved in sports and athletic activities, they also experience these effects on athletic performance more dramatically.

Youth smoking may be less of a problem than it was two decades ago because of relatively effective campaigns to curtail youth exposure to positive images of cigarettes and limit their ability to purchase or access nicotine. However, the significant health problems that stem from early smoking mean that it remains very important that we continue to address the issue at many levels and work to help those struggling because of having started smoking young.

Young Smokers Suffer Far Worse Effects from Cigarettes Due to Being More Physically Susceptible and Ending Up Smoking for Longer. Learn More at Beating Smoking

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