By: Krista Langley, Age 16, Victoria, BC
Teenagers huddled together smoking is not an uncommon sight as you walk down the street. Teachers, adults ask the question "why have so many of this young generation taken up the deadly habit, especially with the information they have on how smoking affects you?"
My friend Jessie has been smoking since she was in grade seven. Most people would not expect a thirteen-year old to pick up a cigarette, but that's exactly what she did.
"I was curious," Jessie explains. "I thought it was a cool thing to do, that it would make me look more mature. Now I need cigarettes to get through the day."
Many teen smokers are in the same situation. When they started it was an occasional thing, but now even the thought of going through a day without a cigarette is unbearable.
"When I first started smoking I didn't think I would become addicted. Now I realize that it was the complete opposite. The cigarettes were controlling me," says my classmate Angela. "I never thought I might not be able to quit, but I guess I never thought about a lot of the things that come with smoking. All I knew was that it felt good when I smoked."
Many teens pick up their first cigarette at a party or among friends, leading them to accept it as a social activity with little thought to the health implications. If more of these young adults were aware that smoking claims four times as many lives as motor vehicle accidents, suicides, murders and AIDS combined, they might not start at all!
Jessie wasn't thinking about her health when she picked up her first cigarette. Like many teen smokers, she paid little attention to the warnings such as 'smoking causes cancer and emphysema' or 'smoking can kill you' printed on every pack of cigarettes.
With such direct warnings, shouldn't teens be worried about health problems and life threatening illnesses associated with cigarettes and tobacco?
Jessie shrugs when asked this question. "I'm not worried about any of the health problems that smoking causes," she remarks. "We are all going to die eventually, so why worry about it?"
Young adults may not be concerned with the health risks associated with smoking, but health officials are all too aware of the dangers smokers face. According to Health Canada, up to half of all smokers will die early from an illness directly related to smoking, such as cancer or heart disease. That means that almost fifty of every one hundred smokers will die prematurely.
Nine out of ten long-term smokers begin smoking in their adolescent years. With these numbers climbing, many schools have programs directed at teenagers to discourage them from taking up the habit.
Jessie does not hesitate when asked if she wants to quit smoking. "Yes, if I could quit, I would right now," she exclaims. "I wish I had never picked up that first cigarette, but now that I am addicted, I can't stop."
Millions of dollars are spent every year by Health Canada, The Lung Association and other groups warning adolescents of the dangers of smoking. However, this does not seem to be working. Perhaps more of this money should be spent in aiding addicted teenagers to quit smoking.
Health Canada Website
Tobacco Free.org Website
LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT TEEN SMOKING AND HOW TEENS, TEACHERS AND ADULTS CAN ADDRESS THIS ISSUE:
- What do think can be done to try to deter youth from picking up their first cigarette?
- Do public health campaigns directed at youth work? Why or why not?
- Do warning labels on cigarette packages work? Why or why not?
- Should smoking be banned on or near school grounds?
- Why do teens start to smoke?
- Why do teen smokers ignore these risks?
Let us know what you think? Send your comments along with your age, city/province to: firstname.lastname@example.org