If you are an adult and ever tried to quit smoking, you realize how hard it can be. But have you ever found yourself wondering why teens have a harder time quitting smoking than adults. Teenagers are faced with a completely different set of challenges when attempting to quit smoking cigarettes than are adults.
Whether you may realize it or not, teen smoking is one of the major problems found in our society. Parents who have teenagers that smoke cigarettes find many challenges attempting to get their teens to quit – Or to keep them from beginning the habit in the first place.
Teenage smoking had been on the decline since the mid to late 1990s. But data that has come out just recently is beginning to show that cigarette smoking among teens is once again on the rise.
As adults we are aware of the serious long-term health risks and consequences of teenage smoking. We are all too familiar with the evidence pointing to chronic smoking related diseases. However, we wonder why some teens tend to ignore this evidence and begin smoking in the face of the many reasons why they shouldn’t.
Among the various different reasons given for the difficulties in teenagers quitting smoking are friends and family who smoke, peer pressure, and advertising geared toward teenagers. Some of the other reasons may include a natural rebelliousness of the teen, or smoking to the relieve feelings of anxiety or sadness.
In the sections that follow, we consider some of the reasons why teens may have a harder time quitting smoking and how you may, as that teen’s parent Or guardian, may begin to help.
Parents Who Smoke
If you are a parent who smokes can you honestly be wondering why it is harder for your teens to quit smoking?
We often find that teenagers have a tendency to imitate the people in her surroundings with whom they feel the closest. Having older brothers and sisters or parents who smoke cigarettes is one of the biggest risk factors for teenage smoking. This is one time you do not want your kids to copy your behavior.
Teenagers having parents who are smokers have a higher tendency to be smokers themselves. By smoking themselves, parents set an example and send a signal to their teenagers to “do as I say but not as I do.” For better or worse, teenagers are going to “do as you do.”
In many homes today, teenagers are simply modeling themselves after their parents, or other adults or so-called role models living in their homes.
If you are a smoker and have kids, you really should stop smoking before your kids pick up on your habit. If your teenagers have already begun smoking cigarettes, you should set the example by demonstrating to them how to quit smoking.
Another piece of the puzzle concerning why it is harder for teens to quit smoking has to do with peer pressure.
Being accepted among one’s peers is a powerful motivator for adolescents. These young people wanting to fit in with their social groups are at a high risk for behaviors such as smoking.
Oftentimes a teenager will smoke as a way of showing rebellion. Going against school rules and parental rules by smoking can be seen as a rite of passage in some teenage social circles.
Some teenagers smoke to be cool or to be independent but they all seem to have the same desire to fit in with their peers, friends, or the social group that they think is cool.
Although you’ll find lots of teenagers admitting to peer pressure as a major reason for starting to smoke, other teenagers say cigarette advertising also played a role in their decision to start smoking. You can guess of course that folks in the tobacco industry blame many other factors besides the advertisements they are spending billions of dollars on.
Matthew Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, says that the most important customers for tobacco companies are teenagers. Advertising is used by tobacco companies to convince teenagers that smoking is cool says Myers.
Cigarette ads tend to glamorize smoking by making smoking appear to be cool and hip. According to psychologist John Pierce, PhD, of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at the University of California, San Diego, “Cigarette advertising dissolves children’s resistance to smoking with entertaining graphics such as Joe Camel that present smoking as fun, cool and a normal part of living the ‘good life’.”
These are just a few of the reasons that researchers feel that part of the efforts to keep kids from smoking should focus on educating kids about the manipulation of young people that is so prevalent in the tobacco industry today.
Most of us as parents tend to underestimate the influence that movies have on children. Even if we are educating our children to the fact that smoking is unacceptable, having children see their heroes and role models smoking in movies will tend to undermine our message.
Research has shown that the more children see their favorite movie stars smoking in movies, the more likely they will begin smoking. It is thought that 4 out of every 10 teenagers who smokes today were influenced in some way by the smoking they saw in movies.
The attorneys general in 32 states have recently begun calling for the major movie studios to include anti-smoking public service announcements with all movies where people are shown smoking.
States the director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research at the University of California at San Francisco, Stanton Glantz, filmmakers are “delivering 400,000 kids a year to the tobacco industry, and that’s wrong. They’re abusing their audiences, and their audience’s parents, and it’s totally unnecessary.”
It is known that nicotine has the ability to suppress one’s appetite and also your metabolism. These characteristics of nicotine make it a popular diet tool primarily for teen girls as well as some women.
Studies conducted by the University of Michigan found that 14 year old girls are two times as likely as boys to try smoking. The concerns given by these girls were fears surrounding their weight.
A number of surveys have indicated that perhaps as much as 30% of teenage girls as well as women give controlling their weight as one of the main reasons for smoking.
States Dr. Margaret R. Rukstalis, a psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania, specializing in addictive behaviors, “The relationship between concerns about weight and smoking is dramatic.”
And those teenagers who do begin experimenting with cigarettes can become addicted to nicotine much more quickly than can adults. Young brains, scientists seem to believe, are more receptive biologically to nicotine. This makes it especially hard to stop smoking.
A report by the National Institute on Drug Abuse stated that some adolescents can become addicted within days of beginning smoking. And it also appears that adolescent girls get hooked on nicotine faster then do adolescent boys.
Not Fully Aware of the Health Risks
If you are still wondering why is it harder for teens to quit smoking, another reason may be that they are not quite fully aware of the health risks of cigarette smoking.
A study recently conducted by the Centers for Disease Control stated that teenagers who begin smoking not only significantly increase their risk of developing lung cancer, but can early on begin showing signs that will eventually lead to heart disease and stroke.
Estimates are that 80% of adults who are smokers today began smoking as adolescents.
Although the health consequences of smoking cigarettes are known to us as adults, many teens don’t seem to be fully aware of the long-term adverse health consequences of smoking.
It seems that kids are not fully able to grasp the concept of the damaging effects of tobacco. A challenge for us as parents is to help these kids begin to understand the long-term effects that smoking will have on them.
What Can We Do
Most experts agree that parents play the most significant role in their kid’s decision to not smoke or to quit smoking.
By making it clear to their children that they disapprove of smoking, parents can exert more influence on the behavior of their children than they might think.
It has been shown that teenagers who feel as though their parents would not approve of them smoking were less than half as likely to smoke as kids having parents they thought didn’t care. And those that do smoke are more likely to give up smoking.
It is a great idea to get to know and become familiar with the friends your teenager associates with. It is also a good idea to get to know their friends’ parents as well. Having your children’s friends over on a regular basis will help in that regard.
In addition, through the power of love for your kids, you can help them overcome the negative influences that certain peer groups may have over them. If your children senses that the love and support you have for them is more important than the acceptance by their peer group, they may very well choose your influence over that of their peers.