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Smoking in your teens and twenties

The health impacts of smoking aren't as far away as you think.


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health


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If you’re a smoker, you’ve probably told yourself on more than a few occasions that you’ll quit smoking before you’re 30, before you finish college, whenever you get married, or when you have your first child. You might think that by doing so, you’re avoiding any of the major health consequences of smoking.

However, the problem is that many smokers continue to smoke after each milestone that they promised themselves they would quit at. In fact, most smokers smoke for 20-30 years before seriously trying to quit!

The thing is, those big health consequences like heart disease and lung cancer aren’t the only health consequences of smoking, and those health consequences are much closer than you might think. In fact, if you smoke, you are suffering the health impacts of smoking, right here, right now. You might not have lung cancer yet, but smoking while you’re young is still extremely likely to make you pretty unwell, and worsen your quality of life in some very real ways.

I'm in my twenties - how is smoking affecting my health right now?

As well as seriously reducing the amount of money in your pocket, smoking poses many major risks to your physical and mental health, that are harmful even in your teens and twenties. Here are just a few examples:

  • Decreased lung function. Smoking makes your lung function decline way faster than it would otherwise. This leads to impaired lung growth, chronic coughing, and wheezing. Yuck! Plus smoking as few as 5 cigarettes a day can reduce lung growth, especially in girls.
  • Increased phlegm production. Yes that’s right. With every single intake of tobacco, more mucus is increased in your throat. We all know how uncomfortable and gross it is to be constantly coughing up phlegm, and smoking makes this so much worse.
  • Severe asthma. This is considerably higher in smokers than in non-smokers.
  • Colds and flus. Smokers are more likely to catch colds and flu versus a non-smoker and symptoms are usually worse and last longer.
  • Increased stress. Yes, we know smoking may seem to provide a temporary relief for stress and anxiety, but in the long term it is sending your stress levels through to the roof.
  • Decreased physical fitness and athletic performance. If you’re in any way interested in sports or keeping fit, smoking is something you seriously want to avoid. Tightening of the airwaves. This is more or less the same thing that happens to asthma sufferers. It causes difficulty and discomfort when trying to breathe.

READ: The big facts on smoking

  • Scurvy and similar disorders. Smoking seriously affects your body’s ability to absorb certain vitamins. These vitamins include vitamin C, E and folic acid. Deficiency in these vitamins can lead to some pretty nasty diseases, that aren’t as far away as you think. Deficiency in Vitamin C often leads to scurvy - a pretty unpleasant illness involving weakness, depression, inflamed gums, poor wound healing, and uncontrolled bleeding. Vitamin E deficiency may cause blood breakdown, eye disease, and irreversible nerve problems of the hands, feet, and spinal cord. Folic acid deficiency may result in long-lasting anemia, diarrhea, and tongue swelling. Yep - pretty nasty.
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. What does this mean? Well, basically it’s when the contents of your stomach refuse to stay down, and return to your throat. This is extremely uncomfortable and unpleasant, and much more common among smokers.
  • Bad breath. Duh.

READ: Manage your stress-levels with these 12 smoke-free stress busters

And how will smoking affect my health later in life?

If you start smoking at an early age, the long-term consequences can be way worse. You can learn all about the long-term health impacts of smoking here.

You can quit - the best time is now

Yes, it may turn out that the health consequences of smoking are a little bit closer than you’d think. But there’s an upside! Smokers who attempt to quit while they're still young have considerably better chances of quitting successfully, and staying off the smokes for good. This means that right now, your chances of quitting smoking are better than they’ll ever be. As a young person, you’re in a brilliant position to quit, and statistically, your chances of staying off the smokes look pretty great. So now is the time! Check out some of our articles on how to quit, and do some research into all the benefits of quitting. Trust us when we say that quitting will improve your life in a big way and you’re absolutely more than capable of doing it.

What services are out there to help me quit?

  • Community-based and hospital-based tobacco cessation programmes maybe available in your area. Refer yourself or request a trusted health professional to refer you.
  • Other supports are available - contact Quitlink, or check out the amazing services on Quit.ie.
  • Talk to your GP or Pharmacist and ask what tobacco dependence treatments are available to you. You can learn all about Nicotine Replacement Therapy here. These are safe, effective, and if you have a Medical Card, they’re free too.
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Published September 30th, 2014
Last updated September 28th, 2015
Tags smoking quit smoking
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.

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