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Your Healthy Family: A dental perspective on raising the legal smoking age

Posted: 9:52 AM, Feb 20, 2020
Updated: 2020-02-20 12:10:06-05

The dangers of smoking and vaping are nothing new. What is new are some of the efforts to try and keep teens from using these harmful products.

More and more communities are pushing to raise the legal limit to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21. Most recently, Manitou Springs joined other Colorado cities like Denver, Broomfield and Boulder in raising the age to purchase tobacco products to 21. We are still waiting for that change in Colorado Springs.

There is plenty of evidence that shows the earlier someone starts smoking, the higher the risk of health issues are later in life. The larger concerns for teens revolve around addiction and brain development.

Dr. Grace Houser MD, is a pediatric pulmonologist with Children’s Hospital Colorado, Colorado Springs. She says, “We know from studies of traditional cigarette use that there [are] significant chronic harms including heart disease and lung disease, lung cancer and other types of cancers. We also know from studies of nicotine that inhaling nicotine specifically has significant harms on the adolescent developing brain, including difficulty with memory and attention. We also know that nearly all electronic cigarette products contain nicotine, even if it's not labeled that way.”

Springs dentist Dr. Fred Guerra DMD, with Guerra Dental in Colorado Springs says the health concerns for young people using tobacco products go deeper. He says, “The oral effects that we are seeing with those younger patients are people in general that tend to start smoking at an earlier age, whatever reason, seem to have less ideal pro-health. The gums are swollen, the tissues are swollen, they don't seem to practice the plaque control in there, and in general they do don't seem to be as focused on taking care of their tissues.”

While a smoke-free society will never be a reality, Dr. Guerra says if less people smoked, dentists would be more focused on cleaning teeth than having to do major work for older patients. “If you had that magic wand, [and could make smoking disappear] we would see teeth that are maintained a lot longer. People are staying alive longer and we need to keep these teeth until we reach our 80’s and 90’s. We also wouldn’t have periodontal or gum / bone loss effects that we see with long-term chronic smoking patients.”

Guerra Dental is a proud sponsor of Your Healthy Family