AlzU Blog

College Students, Smoking, and Alzheimer's Disease

Studies have shown that heavy smoking during the senior years can raise one’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Other research studies indicate that smoking in middle-age can lead to a higher chance of getting AD.  But, when you think about it logically, it usually all starts during the high school or college years.

Statistics on Students Who Smoke

It’s common for young people to take up smoking.  In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, GA, 13% of those who are between the ages of 18 and 24, smoke cigarettes. The CDC reports that 19% of smokers graduated from high school and 18.5% completed some college.

While it’s true that vaping has taken the place of smoking for many students, smoking cigarettes is still common.  In fact, according to a recent article published by The State Press, there is a misperception that due to the new trend of vaping, young people no longer smoke.  The State Press article goes on to explain that, “cigarette smoking is still extremely prevalent among college students.” When tobacco use—chewing or cigars—is lumped together with cigarette smoking, the statistics show that around one-third of college aged students use tobacco products.

As mentioned, the problem with smoking starts when students engage in social smoking.  This doesn’t necessarily lead to daily or heavy smoking right away, but, nicotine is an addictive substance, and over time, a percentage of smoking students will go on to develop long-term habits.  In turn, long-term smoking can raise the risk of one getting Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and other medical conditions.

“One in ten ASU students say that they have smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days,” Karen Moses, the director of Wellness and Health Promotion at ASU, said. “Not all of them smoke daily, so it is the social smoking,” she added.

A common deterrent to smoking used to be free ads on television, created by the CDC.  One such ad featured a woman smoking through her tracheotomy—a hole in the neck for breathing, which can result from throat cancer.  The commercial resulted in 100,000 smokers who ended up quitting.  Unfortunately, in modern times, many young people watch commercial free programming—such as Netflix and Hulu—and they miss out on public safety ads.

The Skinny on Smoking and Dementia

Just like the woman with the hole in her neck, Alzheimer’s and cancer do not occur as an instance response to predisposing factors—such as smoking.  It happens over time.  But, according to WebMD, one study discovered a very strong link between those who smoke 2 packs of cigarettes per day—from age 50 to age 60—and the development of dementia later in life. 

Life long habits, such as smoking, are hard to quit.  But, as a college student, if you never get started, it won’t be an issue down the road.  Quitting smoking is one of several Alzheimer’s prevention measures that can be implemented today, for a healthy brain tomorrow!

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