Of the newer concerns about the risks of smoking and the increase in its prevalence, the most disturbing is the increase in the incidences of smoking among the adolescents around the world. While in the past smoking was considered to be a problem for men only, the increased number of women has also started smoking, the consequences to the health and the potential children are increased dramatically. Without realizing the causes of uptake of smoking among the adolescents, it is very difficult to decrease the number of smokers, for smoking is now considered as a coping mechanism in many of the cases. The problems therefore, of addressing the core issues behind taking up of smoking, the motivation of quitting smoking is essential if war against smoke is to be won.
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The results of smoking cessation although have improved; still present to us a grim face. Smoking is still prevalent in many parts of the globe, and now includes women and adolescents as well. The health affected is not only of the person who is smoking but also of the person who is in the vicinity of the smoker. Second hand smoking is also a health risk that many people bear out. Other issues include the economical and the financial implications, as well as the social and the psychological issues that are inducing the person in to taking up smoking.
The use of tobacco has been going on since the past 2000 years, however it was in the 1700s that cultivation of tobacco started and became a worldwide trade. Although physicians of the time also pointed to possible harmful effects of smoke, it continued to take place and developed into cigarettes by the 1800s. This form of tobacco came to be the best method of smoking around the world. (The Cancer Council News, 2007)
The tobacco industry continues to provide cigarettes around the world. Although previously, the markets of consideration were America and the British countries, the recent increase in the awareness of the harmful effects of smoke have shifted the companies’ focus to the Asian and the African regions. (The Cancer Council News, 2007) Thanks to the heavy bans imposed on the advertisement of smokes on the television and other such media, the rates of smoking have declined. This is primarily because the tobacco companies used victory symbols, extreme robustness of health and the positive attitudes associated with smoking to make it a successful and impressive advertisement. Banning them took some time, but until then the damage had been done. This is because when people with smoking habit are asked about why they wanted to start smoking in the first place, many of them reply that they did so in order to be cooler, or to be accepted into society.
The health risks that tobacco use poses are very high. Each year there are 1.2 million new reported cases of smoking, of which 1.08 million are attributed to smoking alone. This is because there are estimated 69 carcinogenic substances in cigarette, which are responsible for genetic alternations, leading to the progression of cancer. Researches show that smoking can cause cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx and esophagus, bladder and kidney, pancreas, stomach, cervix, vulva, penis and anus. The incidences of such cancers in women is so far less than men, but with the increase in the women smokers around the world, the percentages and incidences are bound to rise significantly.(Smoking and Cancer, 2007) Second hand smoking has also been found to be the causative factor of many conditions and diseases. This is the main reason why many areas of the world have banned public smoking. This effort has resulted in two advantages. Firstly, the non smokers are not exposed to the second hand smoke, and secondly, the smokers are less able to motivate the non smokers into taking up smoking.
One of the most disturbing developments in the new trends of smoking is the increase of adolescent smoking, especially the girls. (Senguire and Chalmers, 2000) In women, smoking can lead to many health issues as they enter into the child bearing age. Some of the risks include the development of lung and cervical cancers, respiratory problems, prenatal mortality, and early menopause. The children of these women become exposed to second hand smoke, and suffer the consequences. Current researches show that there are many factors that influence the girls’ decision to take up smoking. When asked in study conducted by Seguire and Chalmers in 2000, the participant girls responded the need to be accepted by their peers and to be popular among the crowd was the most common reason for smoking. Others thought it was a good method to bind and socialize with others, to gain control over one’s life, and to relieve stress. The emotional attachment to the smoking as a means of dealing with problems is perhaps the most negative consequence of taking up smoking. This has led to the inability of the adolescents to face negative events of life and how to tackle them. (Senguire and Chalmers, 2000)
With more efforts being put in research, many factors are coming to light that may effect the children into taking up smoking. For example, the academic orientation or the disposition in a child can be a very strong motivator for taking up smoking. Similarly, contextual and familial factors can also lead to the development of the smoking habit. Boys can also influence their girlfriends to take up smoking as well. Along side, smoking can impose a risk of starting some other drug abuse in such people. Some researchers have even found correlation with the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder with the start of smoking. This is because parental support is reduced for children who are naturally impulsive, inattentive and hyperactive in nature. In these circumstances, smoking looks like an easy escape route for the child to tackle the situation. Family issues and the environment of the family, along with relationship with siblings and parents, are the most contributing factor in increasing the risk of smoking among the adolescents. Many studies even show that smoking is used as a stress buster by children, which in turn is a very sensitive and controversial issue. (Chassin, Presson and Sherman, 2005)
All of these factors mentioned above however, are factors that help initiate the smoking behavior. As to what continues it is thought to be caused by other factors. Some of the identified reasons for continued smoking include the pleasure acquired by taste, addiction and habit of smoking, anxiety, stimulation, social rewards and cigarette handling.(Loon et al, 2005) Again there are many factors that can induce the habit of smoking. People with negative childhood events are more prone to taking up smoking. Similarly, people who think they have less control over their emotions think of taking up smoking more often. People with stressful jobs and life patterns, and those who started smoking at younger ages are more likely to continue smoking once initiated. (Loon et al, 2005)
Smoking becomes such an integrated part of the life of the smokers that quitting it becomes a test of will for such people. People consider quitting of smoking as an end of the bonding vehicle, and loss of friendship with ones who continue to smoke. It becomes difficult for such subjects to carry out any form of socialization and feel that they depend upon cigarettes to gain social standing. Quitting smoking also becomes an emotional problem of gaining self control, loss of comfort measure and the challenge of creating new coping skills which may not have been developed in the first place. The physical changes of withdrawal effect also concern these smokers. So that smoking becomes a mental and physical challenge of reshaping one’s own approach to life. In such cases, it is not hard to see that such cases may require some form of psychological help in order to get over the smoking habit. (Seguire and Chalmers, 2000)
Current statistics reveal that contrary to the higher class societies which used to smoke, it is the middle class and the lower class societies that are smoking more. Some call it even an issue of social injustice, which may not be so wrong if we consider the factors that promote smoking. In many of these classes, the full access to the best services available, whether in health or education etc. are not available. These negative factors of the classes are being used or rather exploited by the various tobacco companies. Now, tobacco companies are working towards increasing smoking in low classes because of their decreased knowledge about the negative effects of smoking. Methods of advertisement have shifted to local magazines and other entertainment areas, in face of the bans that tobacco companies face on bill boarding or advertising on the media. (Healton and Nelson, 2004)
It is not difficult to see from the above mentioned examples just how serious an issue smoking is in the societal context. It is more of a concern in the underdeveloped countries, where there is already a lack of understanding about the harmful effects of smoking. Smoking in adolescents is a challenge that is raising concerns about the negative effects and the emotional consequences that such teenagers may have to face. Increasing awareness is a good step in reducing the number of smokers, but identifying and removing the essential causes and reasons for the uptake of smoke is a more important factor in altogether preventing smoking. All in all, the fight for smoking is not over till yet and continues to pose new challenges to the communities around the world.
The Cancer Council News, 2007. A Brief History of Smoking. Web.
Laurie Chassen, Clark C. Presson and Steven J. Sherman, 2005. Adolescent Cigarrette Smoking: A Commentary and Issues for Pediatric Psychology. Journal of Pediatric Psychology 2005, 30(4): 299-303.
Cheryl Healton and Kathleen Nelson, 2004. Reversal of Misfortune: Veiwing Tobacco as a Social Justice Issue. American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 94, No. 2.
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A. Jeanne, M Van Loon, Marja TIjhuis, Paul G. Surtees and Johan Ormel. Determinants of Smoking Status: Cross Sectional Data on Smoking Initiation and Cessation. The European Journal of Public Health 2005 15(3): 256-261
Marilyn Senguire and Karen Chalmers, 2000.Addressing the “Costs of Quitting” Smoking: A Health Promotion Issue for Adolescent Girls in Canada. Health Promotion International, Vol 15, No. 3, 227-235
Smoking and Cancer, 2007. The Cancer COucil. Web.