Smoking: NOT a Good Idea for Good Vision
A recent survey taken from groups of teenagers who routinely go out “clubbing” reveals some startling information for those who are trying to reduce smoking among that vulnerable age group.
Over 250 teens were surveyed outside of four club venues in the UK; ages of participants ranged from 16 to 18 years. In the group, about 21% of females and 15% of males said they were daily smokers. The clubbers were asked if they knew about the link between smoking and certain diseases such as stroke, lung cancer, heart disease and blindness. Deafness, which is not linked to smoking, was included in a bid to balance out the responses.
Then, responders were asked to rank their fears of each disease. Awareness that smoking causes lung cancer was high, with 81% recognizing that causal link, but the teenagers were not so well-informed about other health consequences of smoking. Only about a fourth of them realized that smoking is linked to heart disease, and only 15% realized that smoking could also lead to stroke.
The causal link between smoking and blindness was known only to about 5% of the total group; in other words, out of every 20, only one knew that smoking can lead to Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), which could result in functional blindness later in their lives. Of the smokers in the group, only 2% recognized that link.
Possible Vision Loss Later
However, teens responding to the survey were far more frightened of losing their sight than of any other smoking-related condition, giving it a rating average of 4 out of 5, compared with a 3 rating for lung cancer and a 2 for heart disease and stroke.
Nine out of ten survey respondents said they would give up smoking at the first signs of blindness, apparently not realizing that macular degeneration is a gradually-worsening vision problem that would probably not affect them for many years, even though their smoking behavior now could lead to this type of vision loss much later.
Why do Teens Smoke?
It is evident from the survey that teenagers tend to live in the present and that many do not connect these serious health problems with a loss of vision later in life.
Why does anyone smoke, in this era when smoking has been shown by overwhelming evidence that it is very detrimental to health?
Teenagers, in particular, are susceptible to picking up the habit, not realizing how addictive smoking is. Some research has shown that teens do not yet have the brain connections in place to make good decisions about future health problems, as more mature people are able to do. They are also vulnerable to other factors:
- Peer pressure; if their friends smoke, teens are much more likely to try it themselves.
- The “Cool” factor: Teens think of smoking as something that makes them look cool and in control.
- Novelty: Smoking is something teens think of as new and exciting to try out.
- Addiction: Once started, the habit is very difficult to break, even for adults.
- Parents that smoke: Many teens see their parents smoking and don’t see it as something they shouldn’t do.
- Ignorance: Most teens, as noted in the survey above, don’t realize how much smoking can affect their long-term health, and even if they do know, they think they can stop smoking “whenever they want.”
- Rebellion: Some teens are just trying to assert their independence, and show others, including their parents, that they are now making their own decisions, for good or bad.
There are many other reasons as well, too numerous to list here; whatever causes there are for picking up that first cigarette, they are probably much less important than long-term overall health, and much, much less important than the possibility of losing one’s vision.
There are many reasons not to smoke, and just as many to stop smoking once a person starts. However, nicotine and other by-products of smoking tobacco have been shown in study after study that they are even more difficult to break away from then “hard” drugs like cocaine, heroin and even methamphetamine.
The authors of the survey were led by the results to suggest that public health messages about smoking aimed at adolescents should include the risk of blindness later in life. While the prevalence of smoking has decreased in the UK, smoking rates among teenagers are still significantly high.
Long-term good health is a product of eating right, exercise and, without question, not smoking. Help is available to help people who want to quit smoking; if you are already a smoker, step away from it as soon as you can. If you haven’t ever smoked, that’s really good news, but whatever else you do, don’t start!