Why Do People Still Smoke?

Sep 14, 2017 in Research

Many people still smoke today for various reasons, which include social pressure, relief of anxiety, family habits, heavy advertising and sponsorship, suppression of appetite, as well as the effect of the addictive substance nicotine. Despite the decline in its popularity, a broad section of society including old generations can still be found smoking on any street today. Many older people started smoking in a time when it was very popular and due to the addictive properties they still remain smoking today, whereas some young people start smoking because in certain social situations it is still considered fashionable or they follow the example of their family. However, it is not easy to explain what makes people stick to their habit after so much research was carried out about the harm of nicotine on people’s health and after the fashion has partially turned the other way. Thus, it is immensely important to understand various reasons that motivate people to keep to their habit of smoking or start smoking now in order to find a solution to the problem that, I believe, is connected to introducing a healthy substitute to cigarettes.

What Makes People Smoke

If you were to ask an average cross-section of society today the reasons why they started smoking, the answers would be quite different. Peer pressure has a very strong effect on most social groups, either for reasons of trying to fit in, mirroring people who are admired, or curiosity. Many people find the biological effects of the chemicals in cigarettes pleasant and even useful to control feeling of stress and their appetites. Moreover, smoking can even have the effects of enhancing their confidence.

The amount of people who start smoking even without an intention or desire but only as a result of following fashion demonstrates how weak human nature is. Thus, it is the largest contributor to the problem of people starting to smoke or not quitting for years. However, there are many more factors that encourage people to stick to this dangerous and unhealthy habit.

Addiction

The most dangerous side of smoking is explained by addiction that people develop because of a powerful substance contained in cigarettes called nicotine. Moreover, in combination with other chemicals found in tobacco, nicotine has a behavioral addictive potential. However, not only nicotine makes people addicted but they also get addicted to the good feelings they get after having a cigarette and even the “abstract things like the taste of cigarettes or the feeling of smoking” (Smoking and Cancer: Why Do People Smoke? 1).

According to Cancer Research UK, nicotine causes addiction in much the same way as heroin or cocaine (1). Thus, it explains why it is so difficult to quit smoking for the majority of people. Without their normal dose of nicotine, people experience weakness, craving, anxiety, lack of concentration, and other symptoms that affect their ability to carry on everyday tasks.

There is a lot to be said about the danger of nicotine addiction, although the main index is the amount of people who try to quit smoking and those who actually succeed. Hence, the majority of smokers has tried stopping smoking but only one in three attempts is successful which roughly estimates at 2.5% of the total amount of smokers a year (Russel & Slowic 1).

Friends’ Influence and Trend

Many young people depend on the opinion of their friends and people who surround them. Sometimes a pressure from peers stimulates young people to try smoking which they would more likely not do otherwise. Moreover, people like following fashion trends one of which was known to be smoking. Thus, various advertisements and examples of other smokers make people curious and willing to follow the fashion.

People often depend on their friends’ opinions especially when they are young. Hence, recent research carried out at Keck School of Medicine of USC proves that people are more influenced by their peers during junior high school rather than other stages of their life. Thus, chances to pick up a habit of smoking from other children are highest at junior high school (Rugg 1).

Social Smokers

There is a common term that explains one of the most popular reasons for people to start smoking that is called a `social smoker`. Many people believe that going for a cigarette together with their classmates or colleagues helps them socialize and fit into the group. Some individuals are convinced that smoking makes them closer to their peers, helps get new friends and be accepted by others (Cunningham 3). If a person smokes only with a group of other people but not on his own it must be the most obvious characteristic of a social smoker. Such a person would most commonly have a cigarette only if someone else invites them to join.

Many current and ex-smokers can confirm the influence of other people when it comes to smoking. For instance, Ellie Mae O`Hagan as an ex-smoker who discusses the new regulations that ban displaying cigarettes in the shops states that social habit is one of the main reasons for people to start or continue smoking (1).

Stress Relief

Stimulating effect of nicotine explains why some people use it as treatment from stress and feeling unhappy. Some people say that smoking helps them relieve stress and cope with a difficult situation. On the physiological level, nicotine impacts various parts of human body and brain that correspond for releasing a chemical called dopamine, and increases the heart rate. This chemical is known for calming people down and increasing the level of pleasure they get (Smoking and Cancer: Why Do People Smoke? 1). According to Cunningham, the tobacco becomes a psychological – as well as chemical – crutch for people in every stressful situation (6).

A qualitative study held amongst college students demonstrates that for some students having a cigarette helps to cope with stressful situations at school or personal life. Students states feeling relieved after smoking and feeling much better (Nichter 5).

Habit

Quite often smoking can be a matter of habit for people who smoke when they are bored or waiting for someone so they have nothing else to do. Having a cigarette is just a way to spend some time and have your hands occupied. Smoking simply becomes a routine habit which people do not even think about similarly to having coffee every morning. Hence, quite commonly when people try to quit smoking, they choose an alternative of cigarettes such as e-cigarettes so they still reach the desired effect of smoking as a habit.

Lifestyle

Smoking has become an integral part of many people’s lifestyles who think that it is a crucial trait of their personality. Quitting smoking for such people might be considered as an attempt to change their personality that is quite often not desired. Lifestyle as the reason for continuing smoking is directly connected to it being a habit that is described above. People find their comfort in this little routine without which they cannot imagine their life.

Family Habits

Family is the first and the most important source of information about the world for children. Children’s perception of life is influenced by parents from very young age. Thus, kids quite often mirror parents’ habits in everything they do. When a child is raised in a family of smokers who do not treat it as a negative thing, children are likely to copy their parents. It means that there is a high chance of them starting smoking (Why Do People Start Smoking? 1).

Weight Loss

Some young people, especially girls that follow fashion trends, might be interested in smoking as one of the ways to lose weight since nicotine acts as an appetite suppressor (Cunningham 5). This reason is based on high pressure from the society and modern fashion trends. People want to be fit and look good just like models or pop stars on the TV. Hence, in order to achieve such results some people might even start poisoning their body with nicotine.

Reasons for a Young Person to Start Smoking Now

Many people start smoking due to heavy advertising of tobacco companies that was created and pushed at people in an incredibly clever way. Tobacco companies spend a lot of effort on researching what exactly stimulates people to start smoking, which enables them to attract more customers every year. A surprising tendency is that the advertising that was used by cigarette producers in the past was aimed at reaching the younger group of customers such as children and youngsters. In order to attract young smokers, the style, packaging, and other characteristics of cigarettes went through a number of alterations (Smoking and Cancer: Why Do People Smoke? 1).

These days regulations became much stricter towards the tobacco producers, although instead of making them stop advertising it only suggested altering their ways. However, cigarette producers still continue using messages and images that have positive associations such as presenting people having good time, linking smoking to being successful and attractive. By using fit and beautiful people for the ads, tobacco producers expect young people to want to be like them. Focusing on freedom and showing how smoking makes people stand out of the crowd is an obvious appeal to young people. Moreover, tobacco companies being in ally with alcohol producers helps to create additional advertising linking drinking and smoking to having a good time. Thus, the power of cigarette advertising lies in producers using eternal symbols and values to get deep into young generation’s mind and get them addicted to smoking (How the Tobacco Industry Uses Messages and Images to Attract and Keep Customers 2-4).

The tendency to focus advertising on young people can be explained by the statistics. The majority of people start smoking when they are young. It was calculated that approximately nine out of ten people had their first cigarette before they turned 18. General statistic demonstrates that 99% of smokers adopted this bad habit before the age of 26 (Why Do People Start Smoking? 1).

Another important reason for young people to try smoking is pressure they are put under by the society. Young people are easily influenced by their peers especially when they try to impress someone or fit in a certain group of the society. Youngsters tend to heavily depend on what others think about them, which sometimes leads to starting smoking in order not to be different to others and prove that they are not children anymore (Cunningham 2).

The total statistic demonstrates that the amount of smokers in the worlds has dramatically increased over the last century in the world, although it has decreased in some countries. It can be stated from the amount of deaths caused by consuming tobacco. Hence, there were 100 million tobacco-related deaths in the past century comparatively to projected one billion in the 21st century. Almost half of smokers, which is up to 1.2 million people every year, die from the diseases triggered by consuming tobacco (WHO 2013).

Tremendous profits are made by tobacco companies every year which explains their hard efforts in advertising their products and getting more and more people addicted of nicotine. For instance, the total revenue of the world top-6 cigarette producers was $346.2 in 2012 leaving them with $35 billion of profit (The Tobacco Atlas 2010). It is the main reason why tobacco companies will not stop producing cigarettes and will be finding new ways of presenting their product to the market.

Anti-Smoking Trends

Quite a lot of people still smoke, although there are some modern trends against smoking. It is partially explained by a new fashion trend that some people follow just like some of them did when smoking was very popular. However, people are starting to realize side effects of nicotine on human body that can be another explanation for this.

Nicotine increases blood pressure and heart rate in humans. Consuming nicotine, which is the main element of cigarettes, triggers the development of various diseases such as cancer, heart attack, emphysema, stroke, chronic bronchitis, and other dangerous health-related problems (Health Risks of Smoking 1).

There have been many talks and researches on how dangerous smoking is. The governments of different countries try to fight the problem by banning cigarettes advertisements during the day-time television or requiring tobacco companies to emphasize the negative effect of smoking on people’s health. Another step that some governments have made towards decreasing the amount of smokers was connected to imposing higher taxation rates on tobacco products that made them less affordable. Additionally, the places where people are allowed to smoke are strictly regulated these days (Cunningham 1).

However, mentioned actions did not put people off smoking but even made it more desirable for some young people who tend to find prohibited things rather exciting. Cunningham states that these rules - legal, physical and social - can offer tempting lines to cross for young people who tend toward risk-taking behavior (3).

Proposal to Substitute Cigarettes

Almost everyone understands the possible damage that smoking can cause to people’s health. Thus, quite a lot of innovations have been introduced to the market in the last few years to help people quit. One of the alternatives to cigarettes was introduced by using smokeless tobacco such as Swedish-style snus. It was proved to reduce harm to people’s health by 90% comparatively to the tobacco used in usual cigarettes (Health Risks of Smoking 1).

Electronic cigarettes have been getting an increasing popularity over the last few years when they were first introduced in the market. The principle of their work is based on vaporizing special liquids that contain some nicotine instead of actually smoking. The effect of e-cigarettes on people’s health is often argued with many researches proving both positive and negative sides of them (Pruen & Devlin 2013).

Nicotine replacement therapy can be suggested as a method of treating nicotine addiction (Smoking and Cancer: Why Do People Smoke? 1). Nicotine replacement therapy is based on substituting cigarettes with patches, lozenges, and gums that help reduce nicotine crave (Health Risks of Smoking 1). Additionally, there are some tablets such as varenicline and bupropion, microtabs, nasal sprays, and inhalators that are recommended for people who want to give up smoking. Listed preparations still have small amounts of nicotine, although they are much healthier since they do not contain tar, poisons or carbon monoxide like cigarettes do, so it is very unlikely to cause cancer, and it is not as addictive as usual cigarettes (Patches, Gum and Other Stop Smoking Medicine 1).

However, existing alternatives to smoking did not help much as can be seen from the amount of smokers that is still high. Thus, I believe that stopping this bad habit can be possible if cigarette companies find a substitute for cigarettes that would be equally popular amongst current smokers. Cigarette producers must find an alternative to cigarettes that does not hurt people’s health and does not contain substances that make people addicted. Unfortunately, the attempt to find such substitute that would help many people quit smoking has not been found yet. Moreover, heavy advertising must be used in order to popularize a healthy nicotine substitute. 

Conclusion

The amount of smokers these days is rather worrying taking into account that it leads to people damaging their health and giving a bad example to younger generations. I believe that one of the ways to make smoking less popular amongst young people is to create negative advertising. New way of approaching the problem should be introduced since explaining the negative effects of nicotine on one’s health does not seem to have positive results. As has been mentioned, weak willpower is one of the main obstacles that stops people from quitting smoking and encourages them to adopt this habit. Thus, the mass media should be in charge of creating a negative image of smoking by emphasizing that smokers are people who do not have enough willpower and tend to blindly follow the crowd. No one likes to be considered a weak person with a lack of own ideas that is why this kind of advertising is likely to have positive outcomes.

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