Smoking and Social Security – What You Need to Know

Smoking and Social Security – What You Need to Know

smoking and social security
Need to know more about smoking and social security disability? Call SSDA USA!

Cigarettes, marijuana, vaping – all of these can negatively impact your social security disability benefits. As such, our team at Social Security Disability Advocates USA wants you to know how disability is defined and what that means for you.

Meeting the Definition of Disability

No matter what substances you take, the first step in claiming social security disability benefits is meeting the definition of disability. Keep in mind, the Social Security Administration’s definition of “disabled” differs from that of a medical professional. Here are the criteria for disability according to the SSA:

  • You suffer from a disability that has lasted/will last for no less than one year, OR
  • Your disability is expected to result in death.
  • Finally, your condition MUST prevent you from earning Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). This means you must be unable to engage in current work, previous work, or any other kinds of reasonable work based on your age and education. You must also earn under a certain amount of money.

With this information in mind, what is the relationship of smoking and social security disability benefits? First, let’s take a look at the negative effects of smoking and vaping.

The Potential Negative Effects

Smoking cigarettes, inhaling cannabis, and vaping regularly can have negative consequences when filing for disability benefits. Before you apply for your social security disability benefits, you should consider how these habits can affect you overall.

Respiratory Problems

Frequent smoking has been linked to problems with users’ respiratory tracts. Cancers of the lungs, trachea, and mouth are all possible results of regular cigarette or cigar use. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is also a distinct possibility and can include conditions such as irreversible chronic asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema.

However, cigarettes and cigars alone aren’t the only cause of potential respiratory problems – smoking marijuana and using vape/juul products can also cause similar problems. For example, both marijuana and vape usage can lead to irritation of the lungs and increased risks of lung infection.

Further common respiratory problems associated with smoking and vaping include:

NOTE: Even though some may say vaping isn’t as bad as smoking, vaping/juuling carry their own risks. Remember, vaping/juuling is not healthy! There is no scientific evidence stating that vaping/juuling has fewer health risks than cigarettes. In fact, vaping/juuling could potentially cause severe conditions such as popcorn lung and vision problems.

Circulatory Problems

Problems with the circulatory system are always possible when smoking or vaping. Changes in blood pressure and heart rate are common side effects of smoking cigarettes, vaping, and smoking marijuana. Such changes could lead to the increased risk of a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems such as the abnormal and prolonged stiffening of blood vessels.

Some possible circulatory problems from smoking/vaping include the following:

  • Increased risk of heart attack and stroke
  • Stiffening of blood vessels
  • Heart disease
  • Chest pains
  • Problems with blood pressure

NOTE: Even though medical marijuana is prevalent in many states, people that have a history of heart disease, blood pressure problems, and other heart conditions should not use marijuana. Consult your health care professional for what treatment is right for you.

Mental Problems

Various mental and cognitive problems can occur after using cigarettes, cigars, vapes/juuls, or marijuana. The most severe problems are perhaps paranoia, panic attacks, and, occasionally, hallucinations.

Marijuana, for instance, could potentially hasten the onset of schizophrenia, in addition to worsening the symptoms of people who already have psychosis. Marijuana may also be linked to depression and anxiety.

As for smoking and vaping, these habits are linked to anxiety and depression, as well. Furthermore, all three substances (traditional tobacco, vapes, and marijuana) can cause the user to become psychologically dependent and addicted.

Here are some common mental problems from smoking/vaping:

  • Hastened onset of schizophrenia (from marijuana)
  • Hallucinations and panic attacks (from marijuana)
  • Anxiety attacks
  • Depression
  • Mood alterations
  • Short-term memory impairment (from marijuana)
  • Movement impairments (from marijuana)

Other Conditions

This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but all of these substances can cause many other health concerns.

For instance, smoking, vaping, and marijuana can cause sexual problems in males and pregnancy problems for women. These substances also can cause problems in the bones, tooth decay, immune system problems, and problems with socializing/academic performance for adolescents.

Conflicts with Social Security

Now that you know how these substances can affect you, it’s time we delve into how smoking and social security interact.

Inhaling these substances can be viewed as bad for your health by SSA. If you suffer from a disability and smoke or vape, your chances of approval are at risk.

Why the Conflict?

Simple. When the people at your Disability Determination Services (DDS) center review your case, they look closely at your behaviors. If smoking cigarettes, marijuana, or vaping show up, well, it may reflect badly on you.

As far as they are concerned, if your disability were really so bad, you would do everything you could to get better. Also, they may see smoking/vaping as the cause of your condition, and if you refuse to quit, they will assume you really don’t want to get better. However, even if smoking/vaping is not a contributing factor to your condition, they may still view you in a negative light.

In other words, smoking/vaping will not look good when you file your social security benefits claim.

What Could Happen to Your Benefits?

What happens to your benefits depends on the substance being used, how often and for what reasons, and how your condition is affected.

First, not all substances are equal. Cigarettes and cigars, for example, can be more harmful than vaping in some aspects. However, both cigarettes and vaping can be, in some aspects, more harmful than marijuana.

The DDS may not necessarily make a distinction between which substance you use. To them, if you ingest a substance that harms you and potentially contributes to your condition, your benefits are at risk.

How often you smoke/vape can influence your benefits claim, too. The DDS may be more lenient on someone who has one cigarette per month as opposed to a pack a day. In addition to this, though, the reasons for taking such substances are sometimes considered.

For instance, if you are someone who smokes cigarettes, but you can demonstrate that you have cut back and are trying diligently to quit, this may help your claim. In other words, smoking solely because of addiction while trying to cut back may look better than choosing to purchase cigarettes instead of paying for medical bills.

On the flip side, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) may not be so generous. To demonstrate, let’s say you consume medical marijuana. Because marijuana is still a schedule one substance, your odds of approval may be reduced. Even if you have genuinely good (medical) reasons for smoking marijuana, the fact that it’s still federally illegal can hurt your chances of approval. If you mention that you smoke marijuana recreationally and not medically, your chances of approval further plummet.

To add on to this, if your condition is in any way negatively affected by smoking/vaping, you could be denied. It’s your job to prove that smoking/vaping doesn’t contribute to your disability; that is, you must prove you would still suffer from your condition even if you were to quit smoking/vaping.

Essentially, then, no good will come from smoking/vaping (in terms of social security disability), no matter how small the amount. Because of this, you should do everything you can to cut back and work towards quitting smoking/vaping.

What Should You Do?

While smoking and social security don’t often work well together, it’s still possible to qualify for benefits. Here are some things you can do to increase your odds of approval:

  • Gather evidence – Make sure you have all the medical evidence related to your disability. Get doctors’ notes, test results, and other paperwork ready to be examined. It would also help if you could get doctors’ opinions on exactly how smoking/vaping affects your condition, if at all.
  • Quit smoking – While we know it can be difficult to quit smoking, your disability case will look better for it. Quit cold turkey, or at least cut back on how much you smoke. Even switching to less harmful substances such as nicotine gum may look better than continuing to smoke.
  • Consult an attorneyYou should contact SSDA USA immediately for a free consultation. We can help connect you to an attorney who focuses on claims/appeals/hearings for Social Security Disability benefits. Then, you can get help working through the process of getting social security disability benefits.

Need More Info. About Smoking and Social Security Disability?

If you have further questions about smoking and social security disability benefits, contact an SSDA USA right away! Call us anytime at 602-952-3200, or contact us on the web and use our LiveChat feature. Consultations are absolutely free. Don’t keep your questions waiting; call SSDA USA right away!

Also, check out our infographic below for a quick wrap-up of what you’ve just learned.

This is attorney advertising. SSDA, LLC is a group of attorneys that pursues claims for Social Security Disability benefits on behalf of its clients against the Social Security Administration. SSDA, LLC is in no way a part of the Social Security Administration. Further, the information on this blog is for general information purposes only. Nothing herein should be taken as legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, a representative-client relationship.

smoking and social security infographic
SSDA USA is here with answers on how smoking and social security interact.

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