Over half of teenagers who smoke become addicted, which can harm their physical and oral health.

Are cigarettes addictive in youth?

Nicotine is a highly addictive drug found in all tobacco products. Research tells us that three out of four high school smokers will not be able to quit and go on to become adult smokers. Some teenagers who use tobacco show early signs of addiction within days to weeks after starting to smoke. The younger the child when starting to smoke, the more likely they are to become addicted.

Over time, smokers develop a tolerance and need to use increasingly large amounts of nicotine to feel the same effect. Smokers can also experience withdrawal symptoms if they try to quit.

Smokeless tobacco products such as “dip” and “chew” contain more nicotine than cigarettes. Holding an average-sized “dip” in your mouth for 30 minutes can give the same amount of nicotine as smoking three cigarettes. In fact, using two cans of snuff in one week is equivalent to smoking one and a half packages of cigarettes per day in terms of nicotine exposure.

Smoking and vaping effect oral health

The health of your mouth, teeth, and gums can affect your general health. Smoking has a harmful effect on oral health. It causes bad breath and discolouration of the teeth, tooth decay, and gum disease and a reduced ability to taste and smell. It also leads to increased risk of oral cancers on the tongue, lips, floor of the mouth and gums, plus throat cancer. The risk of most oral cancers increases over time if the youth continues to smoke. In fact, most oral cancers can be attributed to tobacco use.

Currently, when it comes to oral health, there are limited studies that have examined the impact of vaping on oral health as vaping products are still relatively new.

Emerging research is suggesting that the contents within e-liquids may increase the chance of cavities. The sweet flavours can attach to the teeth, in the same way sticky high sugar candies do. Additionally, some of the other ingredients may contribute to a dry mouth, which in turn can lead to more cavities and to gum disease. The flavoured aerosols in vaping products can contribute to an increase in plaque formation and decrease in enamel strength. If you currently use a vaping product, you should consider how it may affect your health and what you can do to help protect the health of your teeth and gums.

If you smoke or vape, it is best to cut down and eventually quit. To take care of your oral health:

  1. Brush twice a day with a soft bristle toothbrush and use toothpaste with fluoride.
  2. Floss once a day to clean the spaces between your teeth and between your teeth and gums.
  3. Drink plenty of water.
  4. Visit your dentist and dental hygienist regularly.
  5. Check your cheeks, gums, and tongue for white or red patches, and consult with your dentist about irregularities.