Modern adolescents going up in smoke

By admin

Consider what we believe regarding the amount of knowledge teenagers have regarding the negative consequences of smoking cigarettes, then why would teens start smoking a substance whose addictive properties make it one of the toughest drugs/substances to quit? Why would teenagers stick something in their mouth that is responsible for killing more people per year than all other drugs put together? Is it a lack of healthy modeling by the parent (s). Is the Phillip Morris Corporation (who owns the tobacco industry) just too smart for teenagers, or is it because of a deficiency in our culture and educational institutions that we don’t assist and reinforce elementary and middle school youths with enough “individual thinking and decision making values?” Is it a combination of these things?

 Let’s start at the beginning. Why do teenagers start smoking? If you ask teenagers, here are the four most common reasons, firstly group acceptance, if their friends smoke, many teenagers will begin smoking simply to maintain their acceptance within the group also known as “peer pressure.” Next comes image projection. There is definitely an “image” attached to smoking by advertising. For women it is one of sexiness and desirability, and for men it is one of rugged individualism, fun or coolness. If a teenager buys into that image, then smoking begins. Thirdly it’s rebellion. Many teenagers take up smoking because they know it annoys/bothers/infuriates their parents and other adults. 

There is also a certain element of “independence” or “doing what is not allowed” or “walking on the wild side” worked in as well. And last adult aspirations. Some teenagers believe that by smoking they are acting like an adult. If the teenager is raised in a community where most of the adults smoke, then this is perhaps a logical conclusion. 

The facts. There’s good news – teen smoking rates dropped this year and are now lower than they have been since the early 1990s. In their annual survey of adolescent behavior, researchers at the University of Michigan found that only 12.6 percent of high-school students smoked cigarettes this year, down from 13.6 percent in 2007. Among 7th graders, the rate was only 7 percent (down from 21 percent in 1996). Over 70 percent of teens surveyed said they consider smoking a dirty habit, and would not date someone who smoked. Very few believe that the harmful effects of smoking have been exaggerated. 

Quoted in the New York Times, principal investigator and University of Michigan research professor Lloyd Johnson, observed that the industry pitch for years was that smoking makes you sexy and attractive to the opposite sex. It appears that the opposite is now true. Johnson says it projects a negative image, for both girls and boys. At MTHS such prevention and intervention programs as our TATU (Teens against Tobacco use) and GYBO (Get Your Butt Out) are alive and well. Maybe Phillip Morris isn’t doing so well here? Maybe parents, schools and the community as a whole have been stepping up to the plate in confronting this substance abuse addiction issue? According to the Edmonds School District’s Healthy Youth Survey, the large majority of high school students are saying it’s not cool and I can make an individual choice for myself.

Thanks for listening,

Mr. Clune