Nearly all cases of first time tobacco use take place before a person finishes high school, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). The younger people are when they begin to smoke, the more likely they will become adult smokers. Almost three out of four regular smokers in high school have already tried and failed to quit, the ACS says. Smoking at a young age can set up a person for smoking-related illnesses, such as heart disease and lung problems, earlier in life.
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Teenagers may smoke because they think it's cool or their friends do it, Kids Health says. Friends can be very convincing at getting other friends to smoke. This may be particularly true when a girlfriend or boyfriend smokes, and the teen may feel threatened by losing the relationship if he or she doesn’t take up smoking.
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Teens see other teens smoking and they think it makes them look older or independent. Some teens may try smoking in an attempt to lose weight or feel better about themselves. Teens also have a need to experiment and smoking is often an available opportunity. Many teens are also bored and smoking is a way to seek out excitement, according to Irishhealth.com, Ireland’s independent health website.
Teens sometimes start smoking just because their parents smoke, according to Kids Health. Discipline and setting rules are important for parents. Parents who make strong restrictions against smoking are more likely to have teens who do not smoke, or they tend to smoke less. They may be tempted to smoke, but will not do it around the home, thus reducing chances of becoming regular smokers.
Teens have a simple and trusting view of the world. They believe no harm will come to them, especially if it has to do with the distant future. They often assume that bad things happen to others. Heart disease or cancer does not normally happen to their friends. Their view may change if an older relative or neighbor suffers from a smoking-related illness.
Teens are often influenced by what they see on TV, in movies and through advertising. Smoking can be portrayed as pleasant or romantic. A 2008 survey of 3,415 German schoolchildren, published in the "American Journal of Preventive Medicine," found that youngsters with a lot of exposure to tobacco advertising were twice as likely to have tried smoking and three times more likely to have smoked within the previous month, according to News-Medical.Net.