The impact of smoking in your teens and twenties
The health impacts of smoking aren’t as far away as you think.
Written by spunout
Fact checked by experts and reviewed by young people.
If you’re a smoker, you’ve probably told yourself on more than a few occasions that you’ll quit smoking next year, after you finish college, before you’re 30, or if you have a child. You might think that by only smoking when you’re young, you might be able to avoid the major long term 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.
Smoking and your health
The thing is, major health problems like heart disease and lung cancer aren’t the only consequences of smoking, and those health consequences are much closer than you might think. 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 causing harm to your health and wellbeing in the present.
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 or vaping pose many major and immediate risks to your physical and mental health.
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. Smoking even 5 cigarettes a day reduces lung growth.
Increased phlegm production
With every single intake of tobacco, more mucus is increased in your throat. You might be constantly coughing up phlegm, as a side effect of smoking.
Severe asthma is considerably higher in smokers than in non-smokers. As are breathing problems and shortness of breath.
Colds and flus
Smokers are more likely to catch colds and flu versus a non-smoker, and symptoms are usually worse and last longer. Smoking impairs your immune system.
Increased stress levels
The nicotine present in cigarettes and in vaping tricks the brain into thinking it is relieving feelings of stress and anxiety. But in reality, nicotine is highly addictive, and the addiction to nicotine puts added stress on the brain, adds to stress levels, and overall makes your mental health and your mood worse.
Decreased physical fitness and athletic performance
Smoking causes tightening of the airwaves, leading to difficulty and discomfort when trying to breathe, and decreased athletic performance. If you’re in any way interested in your health, fitness, or sport, smoking is something you’d want to avoid.
To learn more, read here about the facts of 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 – an 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
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is 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.
Help to manage your stress levels with these 12 smoke-free stress techniques.
How will smoking affect my health later in life?
If you start smoking at an early age, the long-term consequences will be way worse. You can learn all about the long-term health impacts of smoking.
You can quit – the best time is now
Yes, if you’ve started to smoke as a young person, you might be experiencing health problems. But the good news is that smokers who attempt to quit while they’re still young have considerably better chances of quitting successfully, and permanently. 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 good position to quit. So now is the time. Check out some of our articles on how to quit. Trust us when we say that quitting will improve your life and your health 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 programmes maybe available in your area. Refer yourself or request a trusted health professional to refer you.
- Other supports are available – visit 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.
Disclaimer: There is more than one way to quit smoking. You may need to try a few different things to find what is right for you. For advice and support on quitting, visit SpunOut.ie/QUIT