Worldwide, more than 38 million young people aged 13–15 years (about 10%) use some form of tobacco. Whereas in South Africa, 21.5% of young people aged 13-14 years are current tobacco users. 

It is no secret that tobacco usage has detrimental effects on health, including oral health, which, sadly, many people have witnessed at some point in their lives or know of someone that has. With the staggering numbers of tobacco usage, just in the youth, what is more concerning is that research also indicates over 13% of non-communicable disease-related deaths (ex,: ischemic heart disease, stroke, diabetes, COPD, lung cancer, etc.) in South Africa, are attributable to tobacco use.

“As we commemorate World No Tobacco Day on 31st May 2024, it is imperative we shine a light on the pandemic smoking has become amongst the youth,” says Natasha Swart, Oral Education Manager at Curaprox. “While smoking as a whole is widely spoken about, in recent years, we have also seen the growth of vaping, particularly in the youth.”

recent study by the University of Cape Town Lung Institute found that almost 7 000 learners vape, with 26.5% of them in Grade 12; 17.4% in Grade 11; 13% in Grade 10 and 10.8% in Grade nine. This, is despite the Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Control Bill prohibiting the sale of tobacco products and electronic delivery systems to children.

“Vaping, just like smoking cigarettes, is bad for your health despite it being marketed as a less harmful alternative. It’s important to understand that vaping devices deliver nicotine (found in e-liquid ingredients) via inhaled vapor, which is still very much a threat to your oral health. The side effects of vaping include dry mouth, increased plaque accumulation, gum inflammation or bleeding gums, sensitivity and teeth stains and discolouration– symptoms that must be shared with your oral healthcare specialist as soon as you notice these signs,” adds Swart.

In fact, vapers are at a higher risk of developing tooth decay and gum disease. Ingredients used in the vaping liquid can not only affect your teeth’s enamel but irritate your soft tissue. “Aside from nicotine, vapes can also contain chemicals like, sweeteners, propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine, formaldehyde, and other toxic chemicals that we know should not be absorbed into the blood stream, not to mention that the heat and chemicals from a vape could result in gum irritation, sores and ulcers in the mouth,” says Swart.

“While we urge parents to be vigilant when it comes to their children smoking and vaping at an early age, there is a bigger challenge that must be addressed from a regulatory perspective. The South African Tobacco Control Act of 1993 (amended 2008)does not cover the regulation of e-cigarettes. It is available anywhere, anytime to anyone. A 2021 South African study found that at least 240 vape shops in South Africa, 39% were located within a 10km radius of a university or college campus, and 65.3% were located within a 20km radius of a university or college campus. Which makes this fight even more complex to tackle.”

“While many of our youth believe that they negative effects of smoking or vaping may only come later in their life, the impact these have on their oral care can happen at any time. Yes, we need more regulation, yes, we need more education, but above all we need our youth to understand that a moment of pleasure, flavoured clouds or trying to use these products to become more socially accepted can and will harm them,” concludes Swart.

No tags

No Comments Yet.

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *