The Smell of Smoke: A Parent's Guide to Cigarettes, Vaping, and Marijuana

Most adults who smoke got their start as teenagers, so it's important to try to prevent kids from doing the same. The negative health effects of smoking are significant, and common dangers include emphysema and lung cancer. Parents should watch for signs that kids are trying to hide a smoking habit. Chewing gum or using breath mints to disguise smoker's breath, a chronic cough, and yellowing teeth are just a few common signs. You might also notice your teenager trying to hide the smell of smoke by spraying perfume or cologne.


Cigarettes contain tobacco, chemicals, paper wrapping, and a filter. Anyone who smokes and inhales cigarettes is exposed to more than 7,000 different chemicals. Of these chemicals, 69 are known to be carcinogens, and many are toxic to the body. Even non-smokers who are around cigarette smokers have the same exposure to the chemicals due to secondhand smoke. Not only will these chemicals damage the lungs, but they will damage almost every organ in the body. Of adult smokers, about 90 percent of them started smoking before they turned 19. Teenagers who start smoking cigarettes are more likely to use alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine. Teenagers are especially vulnerable to nicotine addiction due to their developing brains. It's common for teenagers addicted to nicotine to have less cognitive function, shorter attention spans, greater impulsivity, and depression and anxiety.


Although some states in the United States allow recreational use of marijuana, these laws do not extend to minors. It's common for teenagers to try marijuana, and some will go on to use it regularly. In fact, the prevalence of marijuana use by teenagers is currently greater than it has been in the past 30 years, and adolescents are more likely to use marijuana than to smoke cigarettes. A scary aspect of today's marijuana is that it's grown differently now than it was in the past. Today's marijuana may be two or three times more potent than yesterday's cannabis. Parents should talk to their children about the dangers of marijuana and keep lines of communication open so teenagers will feel comfortable talking about issues if they arise.


When comparing traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes, it may seem that e-cigarettes are a healthier option. Using e-cigarettes, known as vaping, is a trend on the rise with teenagers in the United States. Vaping involves the use of an electronic device with a battery that heats a liquid solution to create an inhalable vapor. An e-cigarette might look a lot like a regular cigarette, or it can look like a pen or a flash drive. Vape liquids are available in a wide variety of flavors, and these solutions contain many harmful chemicals. Some users also inhale solutions that contain THC, which creates a marijuana high. Most vaping solutions contain nicotine, making vaping addictive. The other chemicals present in e-cigarette solutions can cause shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, airway closure, lung irritation, and asthma. Habitual users of e-cigarettes can also develop a condition known as popcorn lung, which is permanent.

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