For many years there has been a major effort all over the world to reduce the numbers of people who smoke tobacco. In businesses up and down the country, no-smoking signs are now commonly found, with federal and state laws adding more restrictions over the places in which people are permitted to smoke, and raising taxes on tobacco products and cigarettes to higher levels than ever. There have been countless studies which have proved a link between many serious health conditions and smoking including cancer, lung disease and heart disease. Over 5 million adults every year (the equivalent to 1 in 10) die from a smoking related illness. However this has not deterred committed smokers from turning to their cigarettes, with around 25 million men and 21 million women (equivalent to around 23% and 18% of the population, respectively) admitting to being smokers. Despite the millions of dollars that have been spent on public health advertising and the extensive scientific evidence demonstrating the dangers of smoking, non-smokers are still taking up the habit which could see them addicted to tobacco for life. So, what are the main reasons given for people taking up the smoking habit?
People who begin smoking as a teenager are often from a family where many family members already smoke. If someone has parents, grandparents, siblings and other close family members who are committed smokers, they are much more likely to take up the habit themselves.
Pressure From Peer Group
Many young smokers begin smoking because their friends and peers have already taken up the habit. The more cigarettes a high school student is offered, the more likely they are to become a smoker. Conversely, if a young person plays sports, they are much less likely to become a smoker. While peer pressure may be most strongly linked with young people, older people can experience this phenomenon too. For example, office workers often bond during a cigarette break and this sense of camaraderie and friendship may encourage others to take up the habit simply to feel part of the group.
The social influence of popular culture should not be underestimated when looking at reasons why adolescents begin smoking. Smoking is often portrayed as fashionable in adverts, movies and in the wider media, and therefore teenagers start smoking because they want to look cool and to copy their heroes, especially if they see images of famous celebrities smoking.
The environment in which a young person is growing up has an influence upon their likelihood of beginning smoking. If a teenager is living in poverty, in a single parent family with a poor educational background, they are at extreme risk of becoming a smoker.
Certain individual personality traits like rebelliousness, thrill-seeking, risk-taking or unconventionality are more likely to make someone start smoking. The thrill of breaking the rules can often be a powerful enough reason to take up the habit.
Lack Of Social Skills
If a young person lacks personal or social skills, has low self-esteem, joins in with antisocial activities or does not fully engage with school, they are likely to be more attracted to smoking than a young person who is confident and socially adept.
To Lose Weight
People who are worried about their figure and want to lose weight sometimes start smoking in an attempt to become thinner. Smoking is often believed to suppress the appetite.
Availability Of Cigarettes
Despite the fact that stores are banned by law from selling cigarettes to minors and smoking by minors is also illegal in many states, young people can still easily gain access to cigarettes. If a child is surrounded by lots of smokers, they are more likely to handle cigarettes at an early age, and are more likely to take up the habit simply through the easy availability of tobacco products.
Teenagers who are already taking other drugs like marijuana, or who already drink alcohol are much more likely to become smokers as they have a reduced perception of the danger that they represent.
To Relieve Stress
Some people believe that smoking helps them to cope with stress in their lives and personal problems. Some smokers even turn to the habit to relieve boredom. Smokers report feeling positive sensations when they light up, including a better sense of wellbeing and some people use nicotine in tobacco products to medicate themselves for illnesses causing pain and tension as well as mental illnesses like anxiety and depression. Some people in very stressful jobs such as soldiers or high powered executives may also take up smoking to lower their stress levels and soothe their nerves, with tobacco becoming a chemical and psychological crutch to help them cope.
Lack Of Parental Control
Even if a young person’s parents do not smoke themselves, their behavior and attitude towards the habit can influence whether their child begins smoking or not. It has been proved in studies that those parents who do not prevent their children from watching movies that depict smoking as a cool adtivity and who behave as if smoking is socially acceptable are much more likely to have children who become smokers.
Despite the fact that advertising of tobacco products has become much more strictly regulated in recent years, old advertising campaigns and misinformation about smoking and tobacco still linger on. In some countries, tobacco is even still promoted as a way of improving vitality and health, and there is still even a persistent myth that tobacco boosts male virility. Many smokers still believe that there are some brands and types of cigarette that are less dangerous to health and this attitude persuades them to continue smoking, switching to these perceived “safe” brands, instead of quitting the habit altogether.
Modern scientific research has started to suggest that addiction, including the addiction of smokers to nicotine, may be partially down to genetics. When taken in conjunction with other health and social factors like use of alcohol, an ethnic or family predisposition to cigarette addiction could be relevant.
E-Cigarettes – Alternative To Smoking?
E-cigarettes are now becoming a popular alternative for many smokers because of their many benefits. E-cigarettes have no unpleasant smell or second-hand smoke problems and they are also free from the 4000 chemical components contained in standard tobacco cigarettes. E-cigarettes do not stain the teeth, can frequently be used in areas where smoking traditional cigarettes is forbidden and can even be much cheaper in the long run than buying standard cigarettes.
E-cigarettes are battery powered portable devices which simulate the action of smoking by vaporizing e-juice (which contains VG and/or PG and flavors) while delivering a varying level of nicotine (depending on the product) without any of the harmful chemicals such as tar which are found in tobacco containing products. E-cigarettes produce a smoke-like vapor and give the user the same inhalation and hand to mouth experience as smoking a normal cigarette. E-cigarettes have been proven to reduce smokers’ cravings for nicotine while giving the user the relaxing effect of inhaling and exhaling vapor.
E-cigarettes contain USP grade propylene glycol which is used in many everyday products such as asthma inhalers, cosmetics and food flavorings. While some people have allergic reactions to PG, these are usually very mild resulting in just a sore throat or a rash, and can easily be resolved by switching to an e-liquid with a higher content of VG (vegetable glycerin). E-cigarettes also contain a variable amount of nicotine depending on the product and a range of flavorings taken from a selection of food flavors and tobacco types.
Some of the benefits of choosing e-cigarettes over traditional tobacco cigarettes include:
- No flame
- No unwanted lingering smells in the home or on clothing
- No dirty ashtrays to clean
- No searching for matches or lighters
- Being able to vape in many more public places
- A safer way to satisfy a craving for nicotine
- A better way to control or reduce your nicotine intake
- No more subjecting your friends and family to second hand smoke
- Cheaper in the long run than smoking traditional cigarettes