After starting smoking in college as a way to stay awake to study, Tom Tenner said he realized he wasn’t receiving anything from smoking other than a chance at life-threatening disease.
“If you’ve got really great genes that would normally have you living into your 90s and you start smoking at a young age, you will more than likely pass in your 60s or 70s,” said Tenner, associate dean for Faculty Affairs and Development at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center and past president of the American Heart Association. “Now think if you don’t have those great genes to start with, you’re more likely to pass in your 40s or 50s.”
The Food and Drug Administration is trying to make others realize this same fact by exercising its power to make tobacco companies disclose all ingredients in their products for the first time, an authority given to them through the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. According to The Associated Press, the agency hopes to have a list of harmful ingredients in tobacco products by company.
Congress gave this authority after research found “Tobacco products are inherently dangerous and cause cancer, heart disease, and other serious adverse health effects,” according to the act.
The act also targets the advertising of tobacco products claiming the advertising, marketing and promotion of tobacco products have been directed at minors under the legal age to use tobacco and has resulted in the increased use of tobacco products throughout the nation.
“I’m amazed at the number of young people that smoke,” Tenner said. “I think the No. 1 reason that Congress is going after this legislation is because of youth smoking.”
The act stated the use of tobacco products by the nation’s children is a “pediatric disease of considerable proportions that results in new generations of tobacco-dependant children and adults.”
“There was a study done that showed that 21 percent of adolescents in the ninth through 12th grade are smoking where 29 percent of adults are smoking,” Tenner said. “This shows that contrary to what the tobacco companies are saying. People do not all start smoking in their 30s — they are starting young and becoming dependant and continuing into their adult lives.”
“In young people, smoking can cause problems such as bronchitis and pneumonia,” said Dr. Kelly Bennett, medical director of the Student Wellness Center. “If you continue to smoke into your 20s and 30s, those can turn into problems such as trouble breathing, emphysema, high blood pressure and lung cancer.”
Tenner said the students who start smoking in college and high school and continue throughout their lives highly increase their chances of dying at a younger age than those who do not smoke.
Tenner said another reason people, especially those who will someday want to start a family, should not smoke is because of the negative effects on pregnancy and birth defects that result from smoking while pregnant.
“Women who smoke have more birth and genital problems than those who do not smoke,” he said. “Also, if mom is smoking while pregnant, junior is getting a steady flow of nicotine and is becoming dependant just like anyone else would. When that kid is born, they are being thrown into nicotine withdrawal, making them sick.”
Jenna Pool, a health educator in the Student Wellness Center, said students who smoke also have an increased chance of doing poorly in their academic classes.
“Smoking urges can have a negative effect on students academics from simple things such as causing a distraction from class,” she said. “We like to educate our campus that there are the obvious negative effects of smoking but also the less obvious.”
The American Medical Association Web site stated simply cutting down on smoking does not reduce the risks and there is no safe level of smoking. The only way to reduce the risks is to stop smoking entirely.
The Student Wellness Center offers programs such as Raider Assistance to help students with problems concerning substances such as tobacco.
“Appointments are available to anyone who calls,” Bennett said. “For students who want to quit smoking, there are options such as medications including nicotine replacement pills, inhalers and patches that can help.”
Because of the negative effects smoking has, the Tech and Tech Health Sciences Center campuses have restrictions to smoking on campus.
“There is no smoking on campus inside the residence halls or any other building on campus,” said Mark McVay, the associate director of University Student Housing. “Even outside of the buildings you have to be at least 20 feet from an entrance.”
According to the American Medical Association Web site, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the Unites States.
“Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the United States,” Tenner said. “Lung cancer follows in number two, stroke in number three and diabetes in number five. All of these diseases and problems are results of smoking. If everyone stopped smoking, this would cut out four of the five top reasons of death in the nation.”
Tenner said smoking has the same effect on your lungs as “sticking your head over a chimney and inhaling deeply several times a day.”