Smoking cigarettes can harm just about every part of the body and is the cause of roughly 30% of all cancer deaths. Use of smokeless tobacco can lead to nicotine dependence, while studies show that youths who vape are at greater risk of being diagnosed with a mental health issue.
More men than women use all tobacco products, and most people who become habitual smokers start when they’re young. That’s why the rise of nicotine vaping among youths is a cause for concern, because a new generation risks becoming dependent on nicotine.
Many smokers and youths who vape nicotine want to quit. There are many available and effective quit medications (including nicotine replacement products shown to improve quit rates by 50%-70%), therapies, resources, and digital tools.
Too many young people and adults use tobacco products, which can lead to chronic and deadly health effects. In addition, nicotine is a toxic and highly addictive substance that can lead to long-term dependence.
It’s true that nearly 40% fewer Americans smoke traditional cigarettes now than they did in 2000. However, the numbers of those puffing on regular and flavored cigars in that time jumped by 85.2%. In addition, use of smokeless tobacco hasn’t dropped much in two decades. And with nearly 13.3% of high schoolers still vaping — exposing them to an addictive chemical that can harm young brains and increase the likelihood of trying regular cigarettes — a new generation is at risk of becoming hooked on nicotine.
Quitting smoking is more important than ever.
A majority of youth and young adult e-cigarette users surveyed say they want to quit. This is Quitting can help 13-24 year-old vapers quit with free, anonymous daily text messages. Text DITCHVAPE to 88709 to enroll.
Parents who want resources to help their child quit can visit BecomeAnEX.org for information, a supportive community, and guiding text messages and emails.
Despite the nation’s progress in bringing down youth smoking rates to an all-time low of 2.3% in 2021, tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable death and disease in America. Smoking is the main cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition that includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis and makes it hard to breathe.
In addition to the ways smoking cigarettes can harm our lungs, tobacco products that are smoked, vaped, heated, or used in smokeless form can pose various other dangers to our physical and mental health, and to our environment from secondhand smoke and paper, plastic, and electronic waste. Here are some hazards of the most commonly marketed products:
Traditional tobacco products
Smokeless tobacco such as chew, snuff, and dissolvable tobacco: A main danger of these products is they can lead to nicotine dependence. In addition, they can cause precancerous oral lesions, and oral, esophageal, and pancreatic cancers and may contribute to the risk of heart disease. Children who ingest these products can be poisoned.
E-cigarettes, vapes, and heated tobacco devices: Vaping nicotine frequently puts people over age 18 at nearly 2.5 times higher odds of having a diagnosis of depression compared to never users, according to a study of 30,000 e-cigarette users. The same study found vaping users are also more apt to report having poor mental health in the past month. Researchers think trace metals in vape liquid might be worsening the mental health of vaping users. Other research shows that using nicotine, including through a vape, is associated with higher levels of ADHD and anxiety symptoms.
The Food and Drug Administration allowed Philip Morris International to claim in advertising that its heated tobacco product, IQOS, reduces adult smokers’ exposure to the harmful chemicals of combustible cigarettes. But the FDA said this is the case only if they completely transition away from traditional cigarettes to such a product, which operates by placing a tobacco stick into a device that’s heated to create an inhalable aerosol. And, the agency made clear, the product is not a “safe” tobacco product.
Avoiding use of tobacco products is the best way to prevent nicotine dependence and to prevent the transition from vaping nicotine to traditional smoking. Knowing the risk factors can help you stop a friend or family member from using nicotine or make a plan to quit. In general, more men than women use all tobacco products. Here are some other specific risk factors for use of certain products:
E-cigarettes, vapes, and emerging tobacco products
If you smoke or vape, chances are you want to quit. (Nearly 70% of smokers say they want to stop, and more than half of young vapers surveyed recently said they wanted to quit.) The good news is you don’t have to go “cold turkey,” a method that’s not very successful anyway. Take advantage of the many available and effective quit medications, therapies, resources, and digital tools:
Talk to your kids about preventing or quitting tobacco and nicotine products.
Many thanks to the Truth Initiative for helping source, review, and edit the content on this page.
Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Smokeless Tobacco: Facts, Stats, and Regulations, Truth Initiative
Flavored Tobacco Product Use in Youth and Adults: Findings From the First Wave of the PATH Study (2013-2014), American Journal of Preventive Medicine; Hookah is the Most Popular Flavored Tobacco Product Among Youth, Truth Initiative; and How Healthy are Hookahs? YouTube video
FDA Authorizes Marketing of IQOS Tobacco Heating System with ‘Reduced Exposure’ Information, Food and Drug Administration
What You Need to Know to Quit Smoking, Truth Initiative and Read This Before Trying to Quit Smoking, Truth Initiative
What You Need to Know to Quit Smoking, Truth Initiative