Concerns Of Nicotine Abuse in Teens


Graphic by Amelia Coleman.

Griffin Beam, Staffer

According to the Texas Medical Association, the average smoker in Texas will spend 1.5 million dollars on cigarettes in their lifetime. Nicotine is extremely addictive, leading users to believe they can never quit, although according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 68% of smokers want to stop smoking. This addiction to nicotine can lead to numerous health problems from cancer to heart disease and has resulted in many premature deaths across the nation. 

This addiction does not just cost the person who uses nicotine products, but it also costs the U.S. a lot of money. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2018 cigarettes cost the U.S. more than 600 billion dollars overall — 240 billion of which was spent on healthcare for people getting injured because of the use of nicotine. There are many different ways to use nicotine, from cigarettes to vaping to even nicotine patches. These patches are essentially transdermal band-aids that let nicotine seep through the skin. Nicotine patches are less harmful than smoking and vaping according to the CDC but should only be used when someone wants to quit the habit. Quitting can be extremely difficult without nicotine patches, but the patches alone can still cause issues similar to those of smoking.

According to the American Heart Association, vaping is considered by some consumers to be the “healthier” version of smoking. However, in reality vaping is just as bad as smoking. We just do not know the long term effects of vaping, and there have not been as many in-depth studies centered around it. Therefore, vaping can have effects that haven’t been discovered yet because people haven’t been using it for as long. While cigarettes and nicotine patch use isn’t rising amongst adolescents, vape use is. The CDC reported that more than 2.5 youths are using or addicted to vapes. Increasing vaping use is mostly because they have lots of flavors that appeal to adolescents like cotton candy and gummy bear. Another reason vape use is rising in adolescents is because they are more discreet than cigarettes and cigars. Increased vape use started more recently around 2007, so long term effects are still a mystery. 

Increased vape use  is harming a lot of adolescents. According to the New York Times, in 2019 a 15-year-old in Dallas, Texas became the youngest person to die from lung disease because they were vaping too much. A way this spike in adolescent vaping use could be controlled is by enforcing rules in smoke shops that ensure only adults can enter. Making vapes, cigarettes, and other nicotine items less accessible would help a lot not just now but also over time too because there will be less and less youth smokers growing into adult smokers passing that habit on to their kids.

Along with vapes, cigarettes are also harmful products. According to the American Cancer Association, regular cigarettes are made of tobacco, chemicals, a filter, and an added paper covering. Although seemingly simple, this three inch contraption contains over 7,000 chemicals, most of which are extremely dangerous to the human body. The chemicals can lead to cancers all over the body. One main reason cigarettes are unhealthy is because inhaled smoke cannot be entirely exhaled, leaving dangerous toxins in the lungs and causing buildup over time. Cancer can lead to all types of difficulties like having to talk through a voice box, or having to be put on a respirator for the rest of one’s life.

Another form of nicotine is cigars. These are similar to cigarettes, as they are made with the same type of tobacco. One main difference between the two though is how they are made. Cigars are made with about 25 times more nicotine than cigarettes, according to Presbytarian Intercommunity Hospital, meaning cigars have the potential to end up doing more damage to your lungs than cigarettes will. 

Despite all this damage occurring to peoples health, the CDC reported that an estimated 31 million Americans still smoke today. Although this is an improvement from a few decades ago, the fact that so many Americans continue to smoke shows that nicotine is almost ingrained into American culture. Nicotine being so buried into American’s day to day lives makes it probable that if the U.S. were to completely take nicotine products off the market, it could cause significant cultural upheaval.

Although the government getting rid of nicotine would be beneficial insofar as it would curb the detrimental health effects of said products, such a decision could produce negative consequences for the economy. One reason is because a lot of other countries rely on our country’s consumption of nicotine products so that could potentially ruin their economy too. It would also take a lot of money, time, and resources to pull nicotine products from the market, and there is no guarantee that this would work, as people could simply smuggle nicotine products into the country as has been done with other drugs and stimulants previously. While just banning nicotine products in general overnight seems like a good idea, it really isn’t. The people addicted to cigarettes and vapes will have a hard time dealing with this sudden disappearance of nicotine products. This immediate shift could cause smokers to go through heavy withdrawal. Smokers could experience a range of reactions, ranging from  mild flu-like symptoms  to severe seizure-like activity, according to American Addiction Centers.

Nicotine is harmful to both the users and other people, and we should start implementing some of these long term ways to help reduce use of nicotine in the U.S. especially in the youth. Protecting adolescents and children from abusing nicotine as well as developing more efficient ways to wean nicotine users off the life threatening substance should be prioritized.