How Long Does It Take For Someone To Smoke A Cigarette?
Why Teens Get Hooked on Smoking
Most adult smokers started lighting up as teens. Keep your kids from smoking by understanding what makes them vulnerable to the habit.
By Wyatt Myers
Medically Reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
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When it comes to smoking and other forms of addiction, people who pick up the habit at an early age are more likely to get hooked and stay hooked later in life. A recent survey from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that about nine out of 10 people who smoke, drink, or use other drugs began the practices before age 18, including 91.4 percent of those addicted to nicotine.
“This study actually just reaffirmed what many surveys beforehand had already told us,” says Alan Peters, manager of online counseling and communities for the quit-smoking Web site and a state-certified master smoking cessation specialist. “Of course, it never hurts to be reminded of this fact so that we can start to do something about it.”
Why Teenagers Start Smoking
Teens turn to cigarettes for a number of reasons:
- Some are motivated by peer pressure — they smoke to be like their friends.
- Teens who are socially awkward may start smoking as a way to fit in.
- Some like the appeal of the “rebel” label that may be attached to smoking.
- However misguided, teens equate smoking with being grown-up, mature, and cool.
- They see their favorite actors doing it on TV or in movies, and they want to convey that same sense of style.
- Teenage girls might smoke to help them manage their weight.
- Ads often show young adults having fun while smoking, increasing the appeal.
- If adults in the home smoke, a teen is much more likely to start.
Many teenagers who smoke don’t expect it to turn into a lifelong problem. “Some teens are simply experimenting, but they become addicted and are actually surprised that quitting is not easy,” says Linda M. Guhe, MSW, a licensed smoking cessation counselor in private practice in St. Louis.
How to Recognize Teenagers Smoking
Peters says it’s easy to figure out if your children are smoking, once you know the signs:
- That telltale “dirty ashtray” smell on their skin, their clothes, and their friends.
- Using more breath mints or gum than in the past, to hide the habit.
- Having loose tobacco, wrappers, lighters, or smoking-related items in their clothing, backpack, or car.
- Asking for more money than they used to need.
Talking to Teens About Smoking
Parents play a crucial role in helping teens make the decision to quit smoking — or to not start smoking in the first place. Though teenagers may roll their eyes when parents bring up any issue concerning health or their behavior, try these strategies to get their attention:
- Ask their opinion of smoking.Rather than lecturing your teens about the habit, which can make them shut down and check out, try to keep the conversation focused on them. Create an open dialogue by asking them what they think about smoking. Also ask them what their friends think about it and what they think their chances are of trying it. “This can help you get your important points across about smoking without making it sound like a lecture,” says Peters.
- Focus on vanity.In reality, most teenagers aren’t worried enough about the potential health risks for that to be a reason for them to stop smoking. So you need to relate the hazards of smoking to an issue that resonates with most teens — how they look. “I tell parents to focus on their teenagers’ vanity,” says Peters. “Tell and show them what can happen to teeth, skin, hair, nails, and fingers when they start smoking. It can be a very effective argument.”
- Talk about the negative effects of smoking on their stamina.If your teen is involved in extracurricular activities, point out that smoking can get in the way of their success by reducing their lung capacity in those endeavors. “Whether they run track, sing, dance, or do any other activities, those are all adversely affected by smoking,” says Peters. They won’t be able to run, sing, or dance to their full potential.
- Tell them about people who smoking has hurt.If a family member or a close family friend is a smoker and has been affected by lung cancer or another smoking-related condition, let your kids know. It will help them put the health effects into perspective.
Remember that if you smoke and you’re trying to prevent or stop your teenagers from smoking you have less credibility for your argument. “Parents who smoke need to take care of their own issues in order to talk to their children effectively about it,” says Peters.
For the latest news and information on smoking cessation, follow on Twitter from the editors of .
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