Why Smoking Cigarettes is popular among teens and young adults: Why it is difficult to stop the habit.

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Mind & Beyond Counselling Centre – Blog article. July 2023

Dr. Jane G. Nyutu Ph.D.

What is Smoking?

Smoking is a habit of burning tobacco in order to inhale, taste and absorb the substance into the bloodstream.

Studies show that more than 15% of the adolescent population between 12-18 years already are trapped into smoking at regular basis MOH (2020). Smoking begins with the initial experimentation about what it is like to become a smoker. At this point, some might stop the habits while others delve deeper into the habit.

Why smoking is a popular thing?

There is a myriad of factors associated to smoking:

  1. Peer influence and desire to conform: most teens try their first cigarette because of being enticed by their peers. This habit might escalate to heavy smoking due to the pressure given by their friends and the desire to conform for fear of being rejected and not fitting in.
  2. Low-self -esteem-teens inclined to have low self-esteem may feel persuaded to copy their peers than those who have high self-esteem.
  3. Low selfefficacy where they believe they cannot succeed to stop a bad habit or they lack the power to deal with the bad choices they make and therefore get stuck.
  4. Faulty thinking: where a person think that they lack the will to avoid the habit.
  5. The Social environment a child is raised in shapes attitudes and beliefs about smoking.
    • Parental Influence: studies show that children whose biological parents do not smoke tend to abstain or to use cigarettes moderately whereas those whose parents have school problems are more likely to abuse cigarettes even if they are adopted or raised by people who do not smoke. Children whose parents’ abuse cigarettes tend to copy this habit in future Huang & Uba (2003).
    • In cases where families tolerate deviance behavior in general or to encourage excitement and pleasure-seeking tendencies, children are likely to smoke and continue the habit as adults because they think it is a way of life.
    • Teens and young adults who were subjected to physical and verbal abused as children, in their homes are at a higher risk to abuse drugs including smoking.
    • Where older siblings engage in use of cigarettes, the younger siblings might be modelled towards the smoking behavior.
    • Cultural influence: There are certain ethnic cultures that accept smoking as a way of life might encourage patterns of drug abuse.

6. Body image issues

Studies show that girls who have low sense of self-image tend to engage in smoking more than males. The dissatisfaction with how they look related to weight concerns may predict high risk use of cigarettes and especially for girls who believe that this will help in their weight issues Jones et al (2018).

7. Modelling: This is a powerful source of influence among teens. Models can be from social media (Television, movies, magazines) as well as significant people in our lives. These sources of information depict people who smoke as very happy, glamorous and hilarious.  

8. Attractive labels used to market cigarettes look very enticing, harmless and persuasive social habit to have “…smooth all the way…..”. The downward side is rarely magnified until the person become addictive and suffer health challenges.

9. Wild house parties that teens and young adults indulge in especially those in college.

10. Unsupervised teens and youths at home during breaks and holidays has made many to try smoking.

11. Preoccupation: teens and young people might spend a lot of their time thinking about how and where and with whom they will indulge the next smoke. This robs lots of productive time and energy for doing valuable work, studies, etc.

12. Availability and affordability of cigarettes: Cigarettes are easily obtained from local kiosks, shops and malls. Majority of people spend huge amount of money to indulge in smoking at the expense of other useful ways of spending. Most teens do not work to earn but are supported by their parents and guardians.

At what age do teens and young adults start the smoking habit?

Studies show that more than 15% of the teens between 12-18 years in USA already smoke cigarettes regularly.

Research by ministry of health in Kenya (2020) indicated that 3.2% of teens are reported to be using tobacco. The NACADA (2019) report in Kenya suggest that use of tobacco in increasing among younger age groups, where even pupils in primary schools (as low as 4years) are indulging in smoking and other forms of drug abuse MOH (2020).

 5.2% use tobacco in secondary schools in Kenya.

Myths and misconceptions about smoking

a. Some girls may engage in smoking because they believe that this will help in their weight issues Jones et al (2018).

b. Some teens and young people lack enough information and consume what is written on the labels of cigarette packets …Smoking is the smooth way to go…” going to cloud nine’ will make a person forget all their troubles. The most unfortunate thing is that smoking does not end one’s troubles.

c. Some believe that smoking increases concentration, reduces anxiety and brings joyful feelings. This may be a temporal feeling and soon they slip back to their anxiety.

    Why smoking is a dangerous thing for teens:

    1. Smoking causes bad breath and those who smoke have smelly clothes. This unpleasant stimulus affects the people around them negatively and this might encourage labels against smokers.
    2. Affects the intake of nutrients in the body making a person susceptible to becoming sick.
    3. Teens whose biological parents or guardians indulge in smoking affect their indirectly and directly and their children may become a laughing stork among their peers resulting to low self – esteem issues and hatred towards the parent who smoke. It’s also a problem when parent sweep their children in their smoking habit by sending them to buy the items for them or tell them to pass the lighter for them. They might get confused and they don’t know whether it’s a good habit to smoke or not. Some children have even witnessed their parents in a state of addiction or in a staggering stupor which might cause them to disrespect them.
    4. Smoking is associated with, family problems, financial issues where a parent ignores key needs but never fail to buy the cigarettes, job issues illnesses like cancer and smoking is related to causing heart attack among other illnesses.
    5. The repeated use of cigarettes might lead to drug dependence and later addiction that is harder to stop.
    6. Studies indicate that current cigarette smoking is a powerful determinant of developing high depressive symptoms and high depressive symptoms increased the risk of heavy smoking Capitman & Goodman (2000).

    Current Trends

    In our society today, majority of teens have adopted vaping and e-cigarettes as an attractive way of life without the knowledge of the long-term effects.


    The teens and young people need to avoid the experimentation and the first cigarette stick to avoid being hooked up and eventually leading to addiction. If already hooked, seek help from a professional.


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    2. Goodman, E., & Capitman, J. (2000). Depressive symptoms and cigarette smoking among teens. Pediatrics106(4), 748-755.
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    5. Melgosa J. (2008). Developing a Healthy Mind: A Practical Guide for any Situation. Editorial Safeliz S.L. Publishers, Madrid: Spain
    6. Ministry of Health (MOH), (2020).   A Report by the Taskforce on Mental Health in Kenya: Nairobi Mental Health and Wellbeing Towards Happiness and National Prosperity. Nairobi, Kenya
    7. Osteen, J. (2012). Your Words Holds a miracle: The Power of Speaking Gods Word. Faith Words Book Group:           New York: USA
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    9. Zig, Z. (2001). Staying up UP, UP in a Down Down World. Jaico Publishing House, Mumbai: India

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