About 4,000 teens start smoking every day in the US, and majority of them take the habit all through adulthood. This adds 400, 000 new smokers annually. Since the health effects of smoking is cumulative, people who start smoking early in life are more at risk of chronic illnesses, including cancer, heart disease and dementia. They also die, on average, 7 years earlier than people who have never smoked.
But what triggers young people to smoke? Understanding the common factors that influence teens to smoke is important to stop them from engaging in this unhealthy and deadly habit.
Below are the things that often influence teens and kids to smoke:
Kids whose friends smoke are more likely to smoke themselves. Basically, it gives them a sense of ‘belongingness’. Even though they know it’s wrong and they don’t like it, many teenagers try to smoke so that their peers won’t leave or ignore them. And since cigarettes are addictive, smoking on a regular basis will make them dependent on tobacco overtime.
A study recently published in the Journal of Adolescent Health suggests that friends have a huge impact on a teen’s likelihood to smoke, especially during junior high school. It was also found that friends’ influence on cigarette smoking was greater for girls than boys during ninth and 10th grade, but it gets higher in boys than girls during 9th to 11th grade. According to the researchers, girls are more concerned about emotional sharing while boys are more into shared behavior.
Many people miss the fact that the habits and values observed by children at home have a major impact to their behavior later in life. In the same study, scientists also discovered that children of parents who smoke are more likely to be smokers themselves. Since they do not have enough knowledge about the harmful effects of smoking, teens may think it is fine to smoke and believe that it is a normal behavior – their parents do it anyway.
Even kids and teenagers suffer from stress. And just like adults, young people may also resort to smoking to relieve stress. That’s because the nicotine in cigarettes activates the areas of the brain involved in pleasure and reward, lifting one’s mood temporarily. But the ill effects of smoking are far greater than this mood-enhancing effect. Another thing, research has found that smoking tends to make people more stressed and anxious in the long run.
Celebrities smoke, and teens see it when they watch movies and TV shows. Even sports people do. Models, politicians and other public figures also smoke. The media makes cigarettes appear to be a ‘normal’ part of life. As a result, teens are more encouraged to start smoking.
Most tobacco advertisements are directed to teenagers and young adults. Well, there are several reasons for this. First, young people have more time to smoke than their older counterparts. Another thing, they constitute a large market, very large. Advertisements make it appear that smoking is ‘cool’ and it makes young people look more mature, sexier and smarter. All these ‘false’ notions cover the ill effects of smoking.
Parents, schools, the government and the community should work hand in hand in stopping teen smoking. Smoking is the number one leading cause of preventable diseases. If it will be stopped, more teens can be saved from the debilitating effects of tobacco use once they’ve reached adulthood.