Whether it’s the occasional cigarette or hit off of a joint, many students are guilty of at least infrequent smoking. Most also know that its harmful, but do they know just how harmful that innocent little puff is?
Sharolyn Gonzalez, the outreach manager in the Cancer Center at Sparrow Hospital said the number of adults who smoke is decreasing, but the number of young adults and teens who choose to smoke is increasing. She also said she thinks the rise of teens and young adults smoking is because of advertisers aiming their ads towards them. But are young people really that influenced by Joe Camel? Give us some credit. Young people know that smoking is unhealthy, but many turn the blind eye and not because they are brainwashed by the media but because they do not feel any immediate danger.
[smoke]However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site, the adverse health effects from cigarette smoking account for 440,000 deaths, or nearly 1 in every 5 deaths, each year in the United States. The site also said that more deaths are caused each year by tobacco use by all adults than by other diseases, illegal drug use, alcohol use and suicides combined. Cigarette smoking has also been found to lead to many types of cancers, cardiovascular diseases and respiratory problems.
“There are over 4000 chemicals in cigarette smoke and they cause more than just lung cancer,” Gonzalez said. These include cancers of the lip, oral cavity, esophagus, pancreas, larynx (voice box), lungs, uterine cervix, urinary bladder, and kidneys. Smokers are also two to four times more likely to develop coronary heart disease, as well as reduced circulation by narrowing arteries. Despite all these apparent risks, many students keep lighting up.
In fact, smoking cigarettes has psychological effects, too. Gonzalez said that people become so dependant of cigarettes that certain things cause people to want a cigarette. She said that some people can do things like turn on the television and then want a cigarette. “People will find they have a cigarette in their hand and won’t even realize it.”
“People say that they feel they have lost their best friend,” Gonzalez said. “When people are trying to break the habit, some will need antidepressant pills or nicotine replacement therapy such as patches and gum. With these, people will not go through the physical withdrawals.” Gonzalez offers a class on how to quit smoking at Sparrow Hospital.
When it comes to smoking marijuana, many students do not think there are as many risks.
Short-term use of marijuana has effects on the brain such as problems with memory and learning, distorted perception, difficulty in thinking and problem solving, loss of coordination and increased heart rate. Long-term effects can include changes in nerve cell activity and increases in the activation of the stress response system.
Tianna Walker, a psychology sophomore, said that she knows smoking is stupid and wrong for a person to do. “I know marijuana makes you hallucinate, but I think smoking anything, in general, is dangerous and stupid,” Walker said. “Yet people keep doing the habit like it’s good for them.”
A study done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse has indicated that a marijuana user’s risk of heart attack more than quadruples in the first hour after smoking marijuana. The researchers suggest that such an effect might occur from marijuana’s effects on blood pressure, heart rate and reduced oxygen-carrying capacity of blood.
Another misconception about our friend Mary Jane is that infrequent use is harmless. Burning and stinging of the mouth and throat can occur from infrequent use of marijuana, as well as heaving and coughing. Also, smoking marijuana increases the chances of developing cancer. Marijuana contains irritants and carcinogens that can increase the chances of developing lung cancer and other cancers of the respiratory tract.
Just like with cigarettes, smoking marijuana can cause psychological problems, which include depression, anxiety and personality disturbances. Marijuana has also been shown to have an effect on college student’s performance in school. In a study conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, college students that used marijuana regularly had more impaired learning than those students who did not smoke. Marijuana can cause users to lose focus in class or while studying. However, it is unlikely that pot will be off the radar on college campuses anytime soon, and just like with cigarettes, young people continue smoking because they don’t see an immediacy to the risks.
Candice Pearson, a human biology sophomore said that most people she sees using marijuana usually smoke cigarettes or another form of tobacco as well. “Smoking has a lot of adverse health risks attached to it and the bottom line is that people should just not do it.”
However, both marijuana use and smoking cigarettes have serious side effects, and neither is a safer choice than the other. While it is hard to see now, cigarette and marijuana smoking can cause serious problems that can lead to death. We are young, but not invincible.

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