According to the American Lung Association, among adults who smoke, 68 percent began before the age of 18, and 85 percent started when they were under 21. This it is pretty significant – somehow a drug that isn’t supposed to be aimed at our youth is being picked up by them. Why is this?
Reasons People Start Smoking
Remember back to the days you began smoking; chances are you can link it to one of four distinct causes. 1) It was the cool thing to do. 2) Symbolized adulthood. 3) Peer pressure. 4) Your role models smoked.
If you think about it what was the first legal mind altering drug you could buy at the age of 18? Cigarettes, right! Of course we didn’t think of it as a drug back then and many don’t in this day and age. But nicotine is a drug and does affect the brain just like many other drugs.
Here is how nicotine works – when you smoke a cigarette the nicotine is absorbed by the lungs and quickly moves into the bloodstream, where it is circulated throughout the brain. In fact, this happens very quickly – within 8 seconds of taking a puff off your cigarette. Once in the brain, nicotine actives areas that are involved in producing feelings of pleasure by raising the levels of dopamine. This is one of the main reasons why people start smoking. The feeling of pleasure outweighs the nasty taste and burning sensation as one begins to smoke.
Dopamine, which is sometimes called the pleasure molecule, is the same neurotransmitter that is involved in addictions to other drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Researchers now believe that this change in dopamine may play a key role in all addictions. This may help explain why it is so hard for people to quit smoking.
As it is teens start smoking because it seems to be the cool thing. Even with what we know today they continue to do it. Every day, almost 3,900 young people under the age of 18 try their first cigarette. Nearly 1,000 of them will become regular smokers and 50 percent of them will die from their smoking habit. The sad thing is our teens view smoking as being cool, they think it symbolizes adulthood, or they feel pressured to smoke from their peers. If we are to be successful against keeping our young adults from smoking we must teach them the truth and we must change the way they perceive smoking. Lastly, we must become the role models they need and if you are smoking then you need to quit. You can’t tell them one thing and do the other, it just doesn’t work. We need to teach by example.