Monday, January 12, 2009

Why do people start smoking?

I'm not asking about quitting and why people smoke. I do know that it's an addiction. I know it's hard enough to get rid of a bad habit, beating an addiction is not even in the same league. But - why do people start smoking in the first place?


I also realize it's mainly teens and kids who start smoking and then become addicted, so they bring their habit into adulthood, but I still ask *why*? I know the standard answers: It's cool, it's peer pressure, it's doing something dangerous. But that doesn't answer my question.


To me, doing something dangerous, risk taking, is something that brings short-term danger and adrenaline rush. Dangerous can be speeding, sky diving, jaywalking across a busy street, and so on. I can't believe that teens take up smoking because it's dangerous - because you don't experience the dangerous outcome until many years later.


So, the other thing is that it's "cool." What's cool about it? In colder climates, like here in Montreal, in the winter you see grown people, as well as teens, freezing their butts off (pun intended!) to have a quick smoke during a break. They're stomping their feet to stay warm, they look miserable, and they can't even have a good conversation because their smoking buddies are also trying too hard to stay warm.


Even when the weather is nice, what is so cool about huddling in a group outside buildings where you're not allowed to participate in your activity?


I also can't believe that kids find it cool to smell like cigarette smoke and have a smoker's cough.


I know the thing about rebelling against authority, but then again - what authority are they really rebelling against?


It may sound odd to read what I'm about to write but here goes. I can understand why kids/teens want to drink and try recreational drugs - because there's an effect from it, usually quite pleasant in the short term, and it makes them feel good or takes them a way from their problems. But smoking, other than bad breath, having clothes that reek, and a cough first thing in the morning, what does it give you? I know some adults who won't even try to quit smoking. They say they enjoy their cigarette and that they don't plan on giving up one of their pleasures. But here it is again - what pleasure? If they're addicted, quitting is UNpleasurable, missing a cigarette break is UNpleasurable, but what is pleasurable from smoking?


Finally, there's the cost factor. Smoking is very, very expensive. Teens often have a limited supply of spending money, why waste it on something that (literally) goes up in smoke? Are you curious about how expensive smokes are across the United States? Here is a roll-over map that will tell you how many people smoke in the state and how expensive cigarettes are.


What do you think?


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3 comments:

James said...

I can understand why kids/teens want to drink and try recreational drugs - because there's an effect from it, usually quite pleasant in the short term, and it makes them feel good or takes them a way from their problems. But smoking, other than bad breath, having clothes that reek, and a cough first thing in the morning, what does it give you? I know some adults who won't even try to quit smoking. They say they enjoy their cigarette and that they don't plan on giving up one of their pleasures.

Anonymous said...

Do you smoke? I'm assuming "no." Why did I start to smoke as a teenager? Yeah, it was cool. But it was also dangerous, it was forbidden, it was something I associated with being an "adult," and because I wanted to rebel. Stupid, right? Definitely. But as someone who has tried to quit again and again (and still haven't succeeded for more than 6 months), I can tell you that the draw of smoking is far stronger than those who don't smoke can ever imagine. "Just stop" is about as ridiculous to me as "just stop eating" is to someone who needs to lose weight. Yet it's treated as the same thing. Need to lose weight? "Just" stop eating so much! Want to stop smoking? "Just" stop. Ha!

There's a powerful force, I think, that works on a lot of adults to continue to smoke no matter how much they know about the health risks. It's a safe (at least as far as the law is concerned) way to flaunt convention, to be "bad," to go against the Nanny State that tries to tell you that everything that's fun is bad for you and wrong. Honestly, the more I'm told I'm not supposed to smoke the more I want to. Immature? Yeah, it sure is. But the tack that public health officials have taken does nothing but make me want to smoke more. Every time I see another rabid anti-smoking article written by (or quoting) another hypocritical do-gooder trying to control my life, the more I want to smoke.

Marijke Durning said...

Anon- I can see why you chose to stay anonymous because it's obvious that you either didn't read my post or you didn't bother to read it properly.

I specifically said that I know addictions are hard to beat and that is NOT what I was talking about. The whole post was on why teens STARTED to smoke.

Anyway, I hope you feel better after your diatribe. Too bad it was entirely misplaced.