Opinion: Stress A Likely Cause of Increase in Teen Smoking

Matt Hosenfeld

While smoking cigarettes is now commonly discouraged, it hasn’t always been that way. When our parents and grandparents were teenagers, smoking was common. It was encouraged, glamourized on TV and in movies. It was considered sexy, even “cool”. Now, part of a generation unfamiliar with smoking may be using it as a relaxer.

In recent years, there has been a major push to decrease the amount of smokers in the U.S. Cigarette companies have been banned from advertising in public places. Anti-smoking signs have instead replaced these advertisements, warning against the potential and inevitable dangers that outweigh the “cool-factor”: dying younger, yellowed teeth, various kinds of cancer.

There has been a decrease in the amount of teens who smoke, but a new study revealed that teen smoking is rising again.

The New York Times study reported that about 1 in 4 high school seniors smoke cigarettes. Most people will find this statistic to be rather surprising; to be fair, the sight of teenagers wandering publicly with cigarettes in hand and a cloud of smoke by their faces is rather outlandish. However, in context, that number seems swallowable.

Many popular shows, for example Skins, glorify drug use and smoking; teens admire and relate to many of these characters. Some even aspire to be like them, because they appear cool and interesting. Programs such as this comfort teens that there is a community to become a part of when engaging in these activities. Many actually believe that the sense of community that goes along with smoking is why several teens turn to it.

Another equally as prevalent reason teens choose to light up is to reduce stress. Recent evidence suggests a correlation between an increasing amount of stress and smoking. Teens of our generation are put under much more daily stress than the generation before us. Between completing homework, participating in sports, arguing at home, looking for a job, learning to drive, applying to colleges, and trying to maintain some semblance of a social life, being a teenager is increasingly stressful in today’s demanding world.With all the stress that teens are under, all they want to do is find a release.

A 17-year old source, who prefers to remain anonymous, says that she “smoke[s] as stress relief.” She first “found it appealing because [she] wondered [how it could be] so horrible. Then after trying, mentally [she] was able to relax from some of the stresses [she] felt from time to time.”

She admits that the stress relief was not the only reason for smoking cigarettes: “It could also be revolved around image; a common trait others may find appealing is the fact someone is [considered] a ‘rebel’ and doesn’t care about anything.” The source says that while she doesn’t like to admit it, “smoking…is an epitome of not caring for yourself in our modern times.”

Smoking gives an instant of that much yearned-after relief from day to day struggles. In theory, this would eliminate a large amount of stress, but only for a short time.

Smoking has been proven to cause and aggravate several medical conditions such as respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, several types of cancer, and even death. Looking at the side-effects of smoking, and knowing the majority of adult smokers began smoking as teenagers, this study isn’t so much surprising as it is sad. A short-term stress release and image-boost cannot possibly be worth risking and even losing your life.

If you are looking to quit smoking, or know someone who is, you may click here to go to the CDC page with tips on how to kick this habit.

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12 Responses to “Opinion: Stress A Likely Cause of Increase in Teen Smoking”

  1. sviswanathan on April 24th, 2012 9:26 pm

    Great article! Very interesting!

  2. Maya on April 26th, 2012 6:24 pm

    Wow, 1 in 4?! A very interesting article – nice work, Madeline!

  3. Charlotte L on April 26th, 2012 8:32 pm

    Wow its surprising that the numbers are that high

  4. Madeline on April 26th, 2012 9:32 pm

    It’s probably a bad thing that I think smoking pot is more tolerable and condonable than smoking cigarettes. Maybe it’s because I’m descended from hippies. Maybe it’s because pot smells better than cigarette tar, or maybe it’s because pot hasn’t become nearly as corporate as cigarettes. In any case, smoking cigarettes is a disgusting habit and I’m surprised it’s stuck around for so long. Smokers aren’t nearly as numerous as they were in the ’60s, but it’s still stunning that millions of people, even young people, voluntarily decide to kill themselves.

  5. amacfarlane on April 27th, 2012 4:56 pm

    Certainly a heartbreaking trend. It is frustrating that even after powerful, detailed studies of the damaging effects of smoking, it still appears to be an uphill battle against tobacco companies. And of course all the dire warnings and anti-smoking sermons do contribute to the appeal of smoking as rebellious or as a way of displaying one’s apathy for adult advice or societal norms. But this issue truly should not be about image, or about defiance; it must be about health. To defy those who seek to help you is only counterproductive. Write a critique of society, pursue a passion that society does not yet consider legitimate, gain your own strength, and prove to the world that you are stronger than restrictions, but also stronger than smoking. Compromising your own health isn’t the way to go about rebellion. And then maybe I’m just another anti-smoking idiot. But I don’t wish to be, and I do so hope that all of us in this generation and the next will consider alternatives to smoking.

  6. Amy Kim on April 29th, 2012 6:20 pm

    it’s sad that there is so much stress placed upon teenagers these days that it has driven some to smoking!

  7. Rachel on May 1st, 2012 4:37 pm

    I’m in college now I’m really really surprised to find how many people smoke cigarettes here. According to our polls here, we have about the same ratio, 1 in 4. However, we don’t have a smoke free campus like high schools, so it seems way more prevalent. I hate having to walk through a cloud of smoke to enter the library or dining hall. It’s awful. I would like to see statistics on how many people at M-A smoke cigarettes.

  8. Lauren on May 2nd, 2012 8:56 pm

    I find it so hard to believe that people still smoke. You’d think with all of the evidence showing adverse health effects…

  9. Zoe Pacalin on May 2nd, 2012 9:14 pm

    Shocking statistic…I hope this number declines soon.

  10. Zoë Nuyens on May 3rd, 2012 2:19 pm

    I hadn’t realized smoking cigarettes was that common; it’s interesting to see that even today smoking is still often associated with being cool.

  11. smoimoi on May 19th, 2012 12:16 pm

    Wow. That’s shocking.

  12. Anna Mayerson on June 2nd, 2012 11:23 am

    I think a ton of people still think it’s cool to smoke cigarettes. Nope, nothing cool about giving yourself lung cancer! Also I hate the argument “I only smoke when I’m drunk”. It’s like stop making excuses and put the cig down