Why Do Teens Smoke?

Morgan Hanzlik -- SCC Intern

Many lifelong smokers admit to taking their first puff during high school. Users of smokeless tobacco often take their first dip during their teen years. These teens and young adults become slaves to tobacco companies at an early age and maintain a lifelong addiction. Here are the 7 main reasons teens start smoking:

1. Peer Pressure

During high school, teenagers begin gaining independence and making lifestyle choices that can stick with them for the rest of their lives. Teenagers are very heavily influenced by their friends, peers, and classmates. So when one kid starts smoking, it’s not hard to imagine a spreading trend. Chain smoking takes on a whole new meaning when one looks into the chain of teenagers falling like dominoes for the lies Big Tobacco spreads.

2. Acceptance

Once someone starts smoking, they join a club: the Smoking Club. This exclusive club has over 1.1 billion members worldwide who enjoy such benefits as increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and early death. But these health risks don’t deter loyal members. To smokers, the temporary benefits – acceptance into a group, camaraderie with other smokers, and shared experience – far outweigh the long term risks and dangers. These feelings of camaraderie and acceptance are very appealing to teenagers, who crave acceptance from and kinship with their peers.

3. Rebel Behavior

Adults often stereotype teens as attention-seeking brats who rebel against their parents and crave independence. While this stereotype is unfair, it is partially true. Teenagers rebel to test boundaries, gain a sense of independence, and show off to friends and peers. Using tobacco – especially smoking – is seen as a great way for teens to challenge authority and build a sense of self.

4. Elder Influence

Teens look to their parents, relatives, teachers, and youth leaders for guidance in all aspects of life. But how can we expect teens to avoid tobacco when the people who raised and taught them smoke, dip, or chew? When kids and teens see their parents and other adults using tobacco products, a connection between that substance and adulthood is formed. In a rush to grow up and emulate their elders, teens take their first puff or dip, hoping to be just like Mom or Dad, Pastor or Teacher.

5. Misinformation

Advertising agencies cast a huge shadow on our lives. Every day we are exposed to countless ads that tell us what to buy, how to look, how to act. Advertising for tobacco companies has come under a lot of scrutiny lately, but that doesn’t stop them. Tobacco use in pop culture is still often portrayed as cool and chic. Recent ads promoting “light” cigarettes are part of the problem: teens see “light” and think “safe,” when the opposite is true. There is no safe cigarette.

6. In the Genes

“It runs in the family” is a phrase often used to explain odd, even quirky, genetic predispositions. Addiction is one of these quirks. Studies have shown that people can have addictive personalities and that addiction to certain substances often runs in families. Teens are just as vulnerable as adults where these genetic factors are concerned.

7. Self-medicating

Those addicted to tobacco claim many benefits of tobacco use, including reduced appetite and tension, a deep sense of relaxation, and even temporary relief from symptoms of depression and anxiety. No study has ever supported these claims. Teens who feel overwhelmed by school, work, friends, and family may turn to tobacco as a means of relieving their stress, but managing stress with something that can kill you is not a solution at all.

Help end the trend of teen tobacco use. Show a teen you care and share the facts of tobacco use. For more information and useful resources, contact the Spearfish Community Coalition!