There was a time when smoking and health was still a debate (younger readers may not remember such a time, but there was). That time has passed and we now all accept that smoking is unhealthy and dangerous. We also know that passive smoking is a real health risk. Smoking rates have declined somewhat but certainly not as much as many health-experts wish to see. We also know that most smokers actually want to quit – it’s just very hard to quit. Since most smokers start as teenagers and since many believe that tobacco advertisers specifically target a young audience (legally or otherwise), perhaps a focus on smoking-and-teenagers is important…what are the sort of messages we could offer teens around the dangers of smoking.
Starting is easy. Perhaps the single most important to tell a teenager is that sure, smoking is easy (once you get past those first awkward drags and coughs). There is no special skill involved. Anyone can drag on a cancer-stick. It’s easy and it says nothing special about you.
Stopping is hard. Ask any smoker. Almost all smokers actually want to quit but they struggle to do so because, well, because it is hard to quit. Really hard. Quitting success rates are around 15-20% or so (without help) and perhaps as high as 30-40% with aids (a clear plan, a quit date, personal support, medication, nicotine replacement). Not great odds. So if you start you’re very likely to end up hooked, addicted, and unable to quit. Is that the future you want?
Smoking is bad for you and those around you. We’re not going into any of the science here. Suffice to say that if you want heart disease, stroke, emphysema, lung cancer, and more…. smoke! The risk for those around you (passive smoking) are real too. All this si proven science. No debate.
Smoking is expensive. Do the sums.
Smoking is NOT cool. We know that it may seem cool to the average 15 year-old. But that “cool factor” is really just based on smoking being “adult” and something of “forbidden pleasure”. It is not actually cool in a proper sense. Being smart is cool. Being healthy is cool. Being fit is cool. Denim is cool (or is it?). But inhaling carcinogenic smoke is not. Anyone who thinks it is is either not very smart and we should all encourage our teens to see that truth.
Modern smoking is still smoking. Vapes and Hookahs are pretty popular today, especially in younger groups. These methods may offer some advantages over smoking from a health perspective (cooler smoke, no tobacco, no burning) but are still unhealthy (just look at the black gunk they collect in their pipes etc.). It is likely that e-cigs, hookahs, etc. lead to the other forms of smoking in many cases. All forms of smoking should probably be seen as equally dangerous, especially for young adults.
Smoking is unhealthy, expensive, unattractive, not-smart and not-cool. If you are a teenager please take this seriously. If you are a parent, please discuss these issues with your children.