Teen Tobacco Use

This article on Teen Tobacco Use talks about teen smoking statistics, effects of teen tobacco use, smoking vs. smokeless tobacco, and the warning signs of teen tobacco use. Tobacco is a drug, read more to learn why it is considered a drug and what tobacco effects.

One of the most popular drugs amongst teenagers is tobacco. While smoking is the most common type of teen tobacco use, smokeless tobacco is also used, especially in rural areas. And, while we recognize that teen smoking can be a problem, we rarely think of it as drug use. However, tobacco is addicting, and it is a substance that can alter mental states and the physical state of the body. It is important to recognize teen tobacco use for what it is: another form of drug use.

Teen smoking statistics

While tobacco companies pay for anti-smoking messages (as they are forced to do by civil settlements in some states), and while they pay lip service to keeping teens off tobacco, the truth is that they get most of their paying customers hooked during the teen years. According to the American Lung Association, nearly 6,000 children under the age of 18 start smoking. That’s 2.19 million per year. Of these, about 800,000 become regular smokers.

The American Lung Association also estimates that, right now, about 4.5 million children between the ages of 12 and 18 are smokers. Most of them start young - 90 percent of smokers begin before they turn 21. Here are some more statistics about teen smoking:

  •  Amongst high school students, cigarette use is at 28 percent.
  •  20 percent of 12th graders smoke on a daily basis.
  •  About 6.4 million of those who begin smoking as teenagers will die early due to a disease related to their smoking habit.
  •  Even those who have been smoking a short time have a hard time quitting.

Effects of teen tobacco use

There are different effects of teen tobacco use. Most of them are related to health. The most common effects have to do with the respiratory system. Teen smoking can lead to persistent cough, lung troubles, pneumonia and even cancer of the throat, lungs and mouth. But teen smoking can also affect the heart as well as blood pressure. Teen smoking can also suppress the appetite, leading to weight loss.

Tobacco is one of those substances that is addictive and that includes a tolerance. More and more is needed to achieve the same effect. On top of being physically addictive (mainly due to the presence of nicotine in the tobacco), smoking is also mentally addictive. The feelings that one gets when smoking and the slight buzz produced are as addictive as some of the physical effects.

Withdrawal. As with any drug, there are withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting tobacco use. Some of the effects of quitting include:

  • Shaking and tremor.
  • Craving.
  • Inability to focus.
  • Nausea.
  • Weight gain.

Smokeless tobacco use and teenagers

While it is not as popular as smoking, smokeless tobacco - or chew - is also a problem. With smokeless tobacco, the problems are more pronounced in the mouth. Because of the nature of smokeless tobacco, teens who use it can experience the following effects:

  • Bleeding sores in the mouth.
  • Lumps in the mouth or neck.
  • Frequent swelling in the mouth.
  • Red and white patches in the mouth that do not go away.
  • Hard time moving the jaw or tongue.
  • Difficulty swallowing.

Warning signs of teen tobacco use

It is important to be aware of the signs that your teenager may be using tobacco. One of the most common signs of teen smoking is the smell. It clings to skin, clothing and hair, as well as being evident on the breath. With smokeless tobacco, the smell is mostly on the breath - but excessive spitting is a sign.

With both smoking and smokeless tobacco, you might see discoloration of the teeth, as well as discoloration of the fingertips. Evidence of smoking, such as the presence of cigarette butts or empty tobacco tins may be found around the house or in trashcans. With smoking, teens may leave the house regularly for breaks.

A tendency toward the jitters can also be a warning sign. If your teenager becomes increasingly restless and irritable at times throughout the day, and then is noticeably better after taking some sort of break to go outside or to the bathroom, that could be a strong indicator.

Parental involvement is one of the best defenses against teen smoking and smokeless tobacco use. It is important to be clear about expectations, and make sure that your teen understands the possible long-term health ramifications of smoking.

Related Article: Other Drugs Teenagers Abuse >>