Over the past several decades, the number of adult smokers has substantially declined, however, the number of youths who smoke has remained unchanged. More disturbing is the fact that the use of snuff (also called chewing or spit) tobacco has tripled.
Tobacco use is the largest avoidable cause of death and disability in the United States. A tobacco-related illness or condition is the cause of 25% of all deaths in the United States. On average, each smoker who dies would have lived another 15 years if he or she were a non-smoker.
Smoking causes or contributes to the following diseases and conditions:
More than 9,000 individuals die each year from oral and oropharyngeal cancer. The risk of having oral and oropharyngeal cancer is much greater among tobacco users. Over 90% of people with oral and oropharyngeal cancer are tobacco users. The mouths of tobacco users have more red and white patches and nodules, sores, and ulcers that could be oral and oropharyngeal cancer. Tobacco users also have a higher incidence of gum disease, coated tongue, cavities, wearing of teeth, and gum recession.
Also consider that about 3,000 children begin to smoke each day. Approximately 90% of new smokers begin before age 20, and children and adolescents who smoke become addicted faster than adults do. Nicotine, a drug found in all forms of tobacco, is very addictive.
Pregnant women who smoke have a higher risk of having an unhealthy baby than those who do not smoke. New mothers who smoke put their babies at risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), poor lung development, asthma, and infections.
Tobacco use occurs in the form of cigarettes, cigars, or smokeless (spit) tobacco. Kids need to be educated about the harmful effects of tobacco. Bring up the subject of tobacco use. This can be done when you see or hear things about tobacco on TV, on advertisement billboards, t-shirts, hats, or in magazines. Explain that buying tobacco is a waste of money and that the tobacco companies target advertisements toward young people in order to hook another generation of tobacco users. Tell them tobacco kills about a half million people each year. More people die from tobacco-related illnesses than from car accidents, alcohol, AIDS, suicides, homicides, fires, and illegal drugs combined. Let kids know that tobacco use will stain teeth and dental fillings, cause their clothes and hair to smell, cause tooth decay, tooth loss, gum disease, bad breath, and will dull their sense of taste. Young people may be more receptive to the fact that their boyfriend or girlfriend may think they have bad breath or stained teeth than the number of deaths caused by tobacco use. Tobacco use does not improve athletic ability, increase popularity, or make one appear grown-up.
by Denise J. Fedele, DMD, MS