From social smokers to addicts: the rise of teen smoking in America

| March 21, 2017

Despite the government’s efforts to curb teen smoking and the slight progress it made last year, cigarette smoking is on the rise again. Experts believe teen smoking may start as a social and casual habit, but in many cases, can transform into an addiction.

Teen smoker

Teen smoking is on the rise. From M Hooper.

Teens and young adults make up 90% of new smokers

According to The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) “children and teenagers make up 90 percent of the nation’s new smokers.” Every day, 3,000 adolescents try their first cigarette. Moreover, teen smoking has grown by almost 12 percent between 1991 and 2009 in the United States.

Teens say social smoking isn’t addictive; experts disagree

Is there really a difference between social smoking and actual smoking? Not so much.

Teens now indulge in what is called social smoking, where they smoke to facilitate a conversation in social settings like bars. While teens agree that addictions are unsophisticated and unappealing, they consider social smoking as cool, hip and not addictive. Young smokers are convinced they can give up cigarettes anytime they wish and escape the addiction of nicotine.

But the American Lung Association begs to differ. A study by the organization states that people who begin smoking at an early age are more likely to develop a severe addiction to nicotine than those who start at a later age.

In fact, most adult smokers got hooked on smoking in their teens. Although 56 percent of high school seniors believe they will have quit within the next five years, a quarter of the almost 3,900 new children experimenting with cigarettes everyday get addicted to smoking in their adult years.

AOA’s report points out that “40 percent of regular teen smokers have tried to quit the habit and have been unsuccessful.”

Driven by the desire to fit in with the group and look cool, most teens take their first puff under friends’ influence. The Canadian Lung Association states “peer pressure is the number one reason for starting to smoke.” Also, popular advertisement and movies can sway a teen’s self-control when it comes to smoking. “Non-smoking teens whose favorite stars frequently smoke on screen are sixteen times more likely to have positive attitudes about smoking in the future,” a study by the association reveals.

Teens find new ways of smoking

Apart from the conventional methods, new -ways of smoking have gained traction among teenagers. These include e-cigarettes, hookah and candy flavoured cigars. Experts fear that e-cigarettes could make conventional smoking an acceptable social behavior.

A report by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention discloses that the use of electronic cigarettes has taken an upward curve — e-cigarette use rose from 0.6 percent in 2011 to 1.1 percent in 2012 among middle school students, and from 1.5 to 2.8 percent among high school students.

Expressing his concern over teen smoking, Director of the CDC, Dr. Tom Frieden,says, “This report raises a red flag about newcomer tobacco products.”

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Category: Smoking Rules

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