Study Shows Teens Are Unfamiliar With Risks Of Smoking

While teens may be aware of the dangers of cigarettes, the risks associated with e-cigs and marijuana are less known.

Shutterstock

When it comes to the subject of smoking, teens are pretty well-informed about the dangers of cigarettes. Statistics show a steady decline in teens' tobacco use—which is great news! However, when it comes to smoking other substances, their knowledge is a little foggy. Recent research from the University of California, San Francisco shows that teens don't fully understand the risks of e-cigarettes and marijuana.

In order to gather this data, researchers led small group discussions with teens from schools in North Carolina, which are known for higher substance abuse rates. They were asked about the effects of cigarettes, marijuana, and e-cigarettes, according to HealthDay.

Participants cited risks like cancer or yellow teeth when discussing traditional cigarettes, but the main risk they associated with marijuana was the fact that they could get in trouble for legality reasons.

Meanwhile, when it came to e-cigarettes, they couldn't tell whether they were safe or not. This is a common question surrounding e-cigs, since they're branded as safer ways to smoke. The teens were unsure whether they contained nicotine, a highly addictive substance. (Spoiler alert: They definitely do!)

 Senior study author Bonnie Halern-Felsher explains,

"The fact that they are seeing messaging about risks related to cigarettes means that they may wrongly infer that cigarettes carry harm but that these other products that are not being discussed do not confer risks."

In an article on HealthDay, Halern Felsher also added,

"There needs to be messaging and interventions that address marijuana and e-cigarettes," Halpern-Felsher said. "States need to ensure that they are creating policies, regulations and health initiatives that address teens' perceptions and aim to reduce youth use and access."

This couldn't be more true! As the rate of teens using e-cigarettes continues to grow (it actually tripled in the past year!), there needs to be more conversations about the risks of these devices. Even e-cigs that don't contain nicotine have been shown to cause lung damage. As for marijuana, smoking as a teen can lead to long-term memory loss. Plus, there are several other health issues associated with the drug.

For more about this topic, check out the "E-Cigarettes: Can They Kill You Too?" story from the February issue of Choices. In the story, we clear the air about myths associated with these devices!