Introduction: Smoking as an Unhealthy Habit vs. Smoking as Personal Choice
There is no doubt that the age of an average smoker is gradually decreasing. To make the matter worse, smoking is being promoted to teenagers directly. One must admit that the issue of smoking propaganda is quite a two-sided sword. On the one hand, it is a matter of personal choice, and teenagers have the right to make their own decisions just as much as adults do. On the other hand, it is necessary to take into account the argument that the values that are accepted among teenagers are rarely based on concerns for health. Therefore, it is necessary to consider the key factors that induce smoking among teenagers and provide alternative propaganda that will stress the necessity of a healthy lifestyle.
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Teenagers and Smoking: the Key Factors for Developing the Bad Habit, or Five Basic Mistakes
As it has been mentioned above, smoking is being constantly advertised to teenagers wherever they go. It would be wrong, however, to blame the mass media solely; there are a number of other sources that contribute to developing the bad habit.
The example of the members of a wrong company
In one of the most famous scenarios, getting under the influence of the wrong people seems the most tangible threat. In their attempt to fit into the school mini-society, teenagers often copy the behavior of the so-called leaders of the group, who, in turn, often use bad habits as the means to prove their quote-unquote “toughness” (Scales et al., 2009). A very basic reason, peer influence still proves to be the strongest, since it addresses one of a man’s key primary instincts, i.e., being able to integrate into the community (Orosova et al., 2008).
Stricken by a panic attack: when a cigarette helps deal with fear
As some researches show, teenagers often smoke to calm down. In the moments of stress, such as taking exams, arguing with parents, etc., teenagers, unable to handle their emotions, resort to tobacco to keep cool (Camp, Klesges & Relyea, 1993).
Developing addiction: nicotine crawls down the veins
Even though cigarettes develop rather mild addiction compared to the effect of drugs or alcohol, it is still necessary to admit that smoking causes psychological and even physical dependency on nicotine. Providing a moment of relaxation, nicotine quickly becomes an easy way to calm down or to get a hold of oneself. Modern commercials do not even hide the fact that teenagers resort to cigarettes as an alternative to having rest or a moment of relaxation: “After a long day of hard work, there is only one cigarette that saves the day” (Allen, 2012).
In pursuit of adult life: cigarettes as an obvious attribute of a grown man
However, researches show that the impact of mass media also affects the lifestyle of young people. Companies not only advertise their brands – they create legends behind these brands, as well as the characters that promote the latter. For instance, Marlboro, the famous cowboy, has been related to for quite long not simply as a man who smokes, but as a free-spirited concept of a hero romanticized by a countless number of westerns. Likewise, more recent brands affect teenagers with slogans like “Only one team can bring you this close” (shok52, 2011), though, ironically, smoking does not factor quite well into succeeding at mountaineering shown in the advertisement. Thus, a cigarette is considered an attribute of an adult by most teenagers.
The rebel inside: cigarettes as a protest flag against the authoritative adults
At the stage when they have to say goodbye to their childhood and face adult life with its challenges, threats, and problems, teenagers face the fact that they are still being treated like children, yet have to take the responsibilities of grown-up people. The given state of affairs, combined with confusing emotions, changes within one’s organism, and increasing awareness of their sexuality, leads to the considerable emotional instability of a typical teenager. Not yet being able to cope with all the problems listed above, a teenager is most likely to resort to using an equivalent of a stimulator or, on the contrary, a substitute for a tranquilizer to handle the overwhelming feelings. Hence the urge to smoke, as well as other negative habits, appears (Kassel, Stroud & Paronis, 2003). When facing the parents’ attempts to make him/her give up smoking, a teenager starts seeing smoking as a means of protesting and, thus, keeps smoking on principle.
Evaluating the Key Smoking Enhancing Factors: in the Eye of the Danger
Weirdly enough, the most influential factor that makes teenagers start and, which is even more important, continue smoking is the group influence (or, as an alternative, the impact of a group leader or any other person who plays a crucial role in the life of a teenager). While the rest of the factors also matter much in the process of shaping the habit of smoking, it is the necessity to mimic the company members, the leader, or any other authority that defines teenagers’ choice.
While the rest of the factors are of less importance for developing a habit of smoking, they are also worth considering. For example, it is quite curious that most teenagers consider smoking as an attribute of adult life. Therefore, adults might need to reconsider their lifestyle to shape one of the teenagers.
Smoking Motivation and How to Deal with It: A Quick Review of the Most Efficient Methods
Needless to say, the influence of the media and the legends behind famous cigarette brands cannot be dealt with (Morrissette et al., 2007). Therefore, to oppose the impact of mass media, it will be required to come up with an idea for an efficient public social announcement. It is crucial that the given PSA should not talk down to the teenagers; a condescending manner will most likely lead to even more drastic results. On the contrary, it will be required to provide solid proof for the harmful effect of smoking, yet add a specific gimmick to the PSA so that it should not sound dry (Guo et al., 2012). Finally, it is noteworthy that, to speak to the teen population, the authors of the supposed PSA must choose an appropriate style, i.e., avoid both a mentor-like and childish manner. The PSA must be honest and, therefore, making the teenagers feel that they are treated like grown-ups, which will make them believe the idea behind the PSA and, thus, quit smoking sooner.
Conclusion: On Motivation, Unhealthy Habits and Personal Responsibilities
Judging by the evidence offered above, as well as the research results, it can be concluded that the issue of teenage smoking motivation and the means to prevent its effect concern self-control and personal responsibility as much as it refers to the outside factors. While it is important to spread awareness concerning the harmful effects of smoking among teenagers, it is also crucial that the latter could learn to make their own choices. Only by learning to take care of their health, teenagers will be able to quit the habits that pose a threat to their health.
Allen, M. (2012). Camel cigarette commercial. Web.
Camp, D. E., Klesges, R. C., & Relyea, G. (1993). The relationships between bodily weight concerns and adolescent smoking. Health Psychology, 12(10, 24–32.
Guo,Q. et al. (2012). Do cognitive attributions for smoking predict subsequent smoking development? Addictive Behaviors, 37(3), 273–279.
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Kassel, J. D., Stroud, L. R., & Paronis, C. A. (2003). Smoking, stress and negative affect: Correlation, causation, and context across stages of smoking. Psychological Bulletin, 129(2), 270–304.
Morrissette, S. B. et al. (2007). Anxiety, anxiety disorders, tobacco use, and nicotine: A critical review of interrelationships. Psychological Bulletin, 133(2), 245–274.
Orosova, O. et al. (2008). Reasons encouraging adolescents to take up smoking. Osychologica, 50(1), 67–78.
Scales M. et al. (2009). Adolescents’ perception of smoking and stress reduction. Health, Education and Behavior: The Official Publication of the Society for Public Health education, 36(4), 746–748.
shok52 (2011). Marlboro commercial. Adventure team. Extreme sports, George Muskens director. Web.