Did you know that North Carolina has an even higher rate of tobacco use among teens than the national average?

In North Carolina, almost 36% of kids have used or are currently using e-cigarettes (vaping). National statistics, on the other hand, show that in 2020, 6.7% of middle school students and 23.6% of high school students reported current use of a tobacco product.

In other words, tobacco use is prevalent in your teen’s life. Even if they are not currently using tobacco products, some of their friends most likely are.

The Impact of Tobacco Use On Your Teen’s Overall Health

Smoking is linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, lung disease, different types of pulmonary issues, as well as diabetes and obesity.

It’s important that we talk to teens about the direct impact on their health right now (not just long term effects like lung cancer). Smoking can put teens at higher risk for pneumonia even in high school.

Secondhand Smoking Still Counts

You may already be familiar about the impact of secondhand smoking and may have good restrictions around tobacco use around your children. Perhaps adults who come over have to smoke outside on the porch.

However, remember that your teen’s friends may be smoking and therefore putting your teen at risk with secondhand smoke. It is important to directly discuss with your teen the impact of just being around smoking on their lungs and overall health.

The Rise of Smokeless Tobacco

Like all other tobacco products, smokeless tobacco (also called chewing tobacco or dipping) is detrimental to kids. Smokeless tobacco is directly linked to oral cancer, as well as throat, mouth, and tongue infections. Student athletes are most at risk for smokeless tobacco use.

Smokeless tobacco does not just create health problems later in your child’s life. Cancerous lesions from smokeless tobacco use have been found in people as young as 21 years old.

The Impact of Tobacco on Teen’s Dental Health

Tobacco (either through smoking, vaping, or dipping) is notorious for staining teeth and causing bad breath.

However, some of tobacco’s negative effects are less obvious. Tobacco use causes the gums to recede. It also decreases the flow of saliva. This is part of the cause of bad breath, and some studies have posited that decreased saliva (and therefore impaired digestion) is how tobacco use is linked to obesity.

How to Decrease Your Child’s Risk for Using Tobacco

None of us want our kids using tobacco. So how do we decrease the likelihood that they will?

  1. Talk openly and directly with your kids about tobacco use – even before they are teens. It is important for you to be forthright about the impacts of tobacco on their health, as well as the social ramifications of smoking (or not). If you have experimented with tobacco (or are / were a regular user) talk to them frankly about it.
  2. If you are currently smoking, vaping, or dipping, consider stopping. Studies have shown that parental use of tobacco products puts children at a higher risk. Generational smoking is, in fact, one of the top factors of why kids smoke.

If you’d like more support as you prepare to discuss tobacco use with your teen, watch this short video.

Over the past couple of months, Dr. Joye Warr has given short chats via Facebook Live about different aspects of teen dental health. In the most recent video (above), Dr. Joye Warr talked about the impact of tobacco use on a teen’s dental health.

We’ve also covered:

  • How a teen’s diet affects their dental health
  • How teens brush a little bit differently
  • How to approach a conversation about teeth whitening and bleaching with your teen

You can find all of Dr. Joye’s video chats on our YouTube channel.

Join us on Facebook Live on March 25 at 5:30 pm.

Dr. Joye will cover the effects of vaping on teen dental health, as well as answer any questions that you may have about how to discuss vaping with your pre-teens and teens.