5 basic reasons why young people start smoking
Why do young people and teenagers smoke? How can we help them to not start and to quit smoking? The University of Cyprus, the Ministry of Education and EuroLife are joining efforts to help prevent smoking among students and to help them quit. However, it is essential to know the real causes.
The University of Cyprus ACthealthy lab, led by Maria Karekla, PhD, has conducted a study, in which teenagers and young adult smokers were asked about the reasons that led them to use tobacco products. Irrespective of age group, students gave the following five main reasons:
- Social influence/fun: Teenagers said they started smoking because their friends smoked and encouraged them to try it, especially during moments of fun. This group was more likely to have parents as smokers.
- Combination with other substances: The second reason was to combine smoking with other substances, such as coffee and alcohol.
- Emotions of anger/being upset: Unfortunately, many images promoting smoking combine smoking with emotion. For example, they show a person light up when experiencing intense feelings, such as anger. Young smokers portrayed this image, i.e. that they smoke in order to cope with some intense feelings, such as anger and being upset.
- Emotions of sadness and anxiety: Similar to the previous reason, young smokers seem to not have learned ways to cope with intense feelings, and think that smoking will help them deal with them (e.g. to calm down). Interestingly, nicotine contained in tobacco products is a stimulant and has exactly the opposite effects on the body. Surveys also indicate that as a group, smokers tend to have much more stress, and that stress levels decrease after quitting.
- Pleasure and relaxation: We once again see the myth that smoking brings pleasure (while ignoring all bad consequences).
How schools undermine the effort
Of particular interest during the program was that students were afraid they would face specific attitudes and behaviors if they tried to stop smoking. In particular, participants considered it extremely difficult to escape smoking habits while at school. Some statements were: “How can I quit since my friends will gather again during the break and smoke in the school yard?”, “I will not have friends if I do not smoke with them”, “Why are you telling us to stop smoking when professors themselves are smoking so much that they have turned their meeting room into a gas chamber?”
EuroLife supports smoking prevention initiatives under its “Prolipsi” (“Prevention”) Corporate Social Responsibility program, which aims to provide our fellow citizens with the resources and means for a better quality of life at all levels –healthy eating, exercise, cycling, and love for nature and the environment.