Many people say that smoking makes them more alert and improves their concentration, while others believe that smoking calms them down, especially when they are feeling anxious or stressed. While scientists believe this is because the chemicals in the cigarette (especially nicotine) have reduced the withdrawal symptoms that smokers get between one cigarette and the next. Smokers are ‘addicted’ to smoking!
Most people begin smoking when they are teenagers and go on to become regular smokers as adults. Why do young people start smoking when there is so much information available about the damage smoking does to the body?
- It has been suggested that young people are attracted to the ‘image’ they associate with smoking. The tobacco industry has created an image of smoking as being tough, cool, sophisticated, sexy, attractive or a form of rebellion. Although nicotine addiction keeps people smoking, young people usually start smoking because of the social image they want to present to others.
- Young people are also more likely to start smoking if their friends or family are smokers.
- In some cultures, smoking is still widely accepted.
Apart from the health risks, smoking is not seen as ‘cool’ any more. Its banned in so many places these days, that it can be hard to hang out with your friends.
There is no ‘safe’ level of smoking, and the reality is that ‘cutting down’ just doesn’t work! It has been proven that, when people reduce the number of cigarettes they smoke, they take more ‘drags’ from each cigarette. They also take the smoke deeper into their lungs, and hold it in their lungs for a longer period of time. This means they just end up soaking up the same amount of nicotine and other chemicals from fewer cigarettes.
The same thing happens when people switch to cigarettes with a lower tar and nicotine content (so-called ‘light’ cigarettes). People usually do the same things described above, or actually end up smoking more cigarettes!
Also, research on ‘light’ cigarette smokers has:
- Not shown any reduction in smoking-related health risks,
- Not shown that people are more likely to quit,
- Shown that smokers are exposed to at least as much nicotine, carbon monoxide or tar,
- Shown that they still get as much heart disease and lung cancer.
Research has also shown that young people do not know this, and many think that they will be healthier if they smoke light cigarettes. This is not true. Light cigarettes will also be just as likely to make a smoker addicted.
Young adulthood is a time of many transitions, including changes in smoking behavior. Adolescents who experiment or smoke intermittently often progress to daily smoking in young adulthood. Young adulthood is also a time when some smokers make quit attempts. Unfortunately, young people who try to quit are likely to relapse, similar to older adults. Often, it is with their first quit attempt that young smokers realize that they have become addicted to tobacco and will not be able to quit easily.