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Why do people smoke?

Different influences in people's lives lead to them starting smoking


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health


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People might start smoking for a number of different reasons. They might be influenced by seeing family members or friends smoke. People in different films, video games and television programmes smoke and this might also influence people. Some people are curious and just want to try it.

Becoming addicted to smoking

Anyone who starts smoking tobacco can become addicted to nicotine, the addictive substance in tobacco. Studies show that smoking is most likely to become a habit during the teenage years. This doesn’t mean that adults won’t become addicted either.

Nicotine is highly addictive. It is said to be as addictive as heroin and cocaine. Some people become addicted to things very fast and others don’t. Someone might smoke and not become addicted at first but then become addicted at a later time. It’s likely that you will become addicted at some stage. It’s best to avoid smoking or vaping altogether because you have no way of knowing if or when you’ll become addicted.

Someone might be physically and psychologically addicted to smoking. This means their body and their brain both think they need nicotine. This addiction can be difficult to overcome and people can get withdrawal symptoms after about 2 hours of not consuming nicotine.

Read about how to deal with withdrawal symptoms here.

Smoking culture

In the past smoking was a very normal thing. It was even seen as fashionable. Advertising campaigns featured doctors and celebrities. It was only in the second half of the 20th century that people found out that smoking is bad for our health. Since then researchers are finding more and more about just how unhealthy smoking actually is.

Nicotine regulations in Ireland

In 2004 Ireland introduced a ban on smoking in workplaces, including pubs, restaurants and any other place of work. Ireland was the first country to do this, and many other countries followed with similar smoking bans.

In 2009, in store advertising and displays of cigarettes in shops was banned. In 2018 plain packaging on cigarettes and tobacco was introduced. These bans hope to change the culture of smoking in Ireland.

E-cigarette and vaping companies can advertise their products. There are regulations on how they do this. Some of the advertising regulations are as follows. E-cigarette marketing should:

  • Not promote the use of tobacco or show it in a positive way
  • Make it clear that an e-cigarette is not a tobacco product
  • Not use health professionals or celebrities to endorse the products
  • State that the product contains nicotine

Growing up with smoking in the home

People whose parent’s smoke are more likely to smoke themselves. When people smoke they inhale 15% of the smoke produced from the cigarette. The other 85% is absorbed by the atmosphere, and by other people around them inhaling second hand smoke. This means that children who grow up in a house where people smoke inside are exposed to a lot of the dangers of smoking from an early age. Children who grow up with parents who smoke are also more at risk of developing asthma.

If people see their parents or other family members smoke they might see it as normal. They might want to do what their older family members do. Children learn by imitating their parents’ or family members’ behaviour. For someone whose parents smoke they might subconsciously imitate their parents without even realising.

Read more about how to talk to your parents about their smoking here.



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Cigarette breaks

People often take cigarette breaks at work. In some places of work this might be the only way people can get a break. Taking cigarette breaks can be a social thing as well. This culture is essentially rewarding smokers by giving them more breaks.

People often take cigarette breaks between lectures in college too.

You don’t have to smoke to take a few minutes to yourself outside. You can go for a walk or step outside without having a cigarette too. Similarly if it’s the social element of smoking that you like, you can still go outside and chat to your friends, people won’t mind if you have a cigarette or not. Be aware that second hand smoking still comes with health risks.

Learn more about how harmful second hand smoke is.

If you have recently given up smoking or are trying to give up smoking avoid spending time with people who smoke. This can make quitting very difficult. Taking a quick walk might be a better alternative.

Smoking on nights out

A lot of people start smoking because they tried it on a night out and then formed a habit, either straight away or over time. Smoking in social situations is sometimes called ‘social smoking’.

Alcohol increases cravings for tobacco and tobacco enhances the effects of alcohol. Drinking alcohol while using tobacco increases the risk of the following cancers even more than drinking alcohol or using tobacco by itself.

  • Mouth
  • Throat
  • Larynx
  • Oesophagus
  • Liver

Remember that you don’t have to smoke, even if you are in an outdoor or smoking area. If you are trying to quit or have recently quit ask your friends can they take it in turns going outside so you don’t have to. Putting yourself in an environment where people are smoking might make it very difficult to avoid smoking. Some bars and restaurants have outdoor areas where smoking isn’t actually allowed.

Smoking and mental health

People experiencing mental health issues are more likely to smoke than those who aren’t. Those with anxiety or depression are twice as likely to smoke and those with bipolar or schizophrenia are three times as likely to smoke than someone not experiencing any mental health illness.

Some people experiencing mental illness might use nicotine to manage their symptoms. However, there is evidence to say that smoking can actually cause or worsen anxiety and depression.

Read more about smoking and mental health here.

Why people vape

Vaping became popular as an alternative to smoking in recent years. 13% of ex-smokers currently use an e-cigarette. However, e-cigarettes contain nicotine. People smoking e-cigarettes are exposed to a lot of the negative effects of smoking. There are some conditions caused exclusively by vaping such as respiratory illness and lung disease.

Read more about if vaping is addictive here.

Giving up smoking

Giving up smoking can be extremely difficult. It can be hard on your physical and mental health in the short run but in the long run it’s one of the best things you can do for your health.

People might experience withdrawal symptoms when giving up smoking such as:

  • A change in energy levels
  • A cough
  • Cigarette cravings
  • Flu like symptoms

People often have to work hard to quit smoking and really want to do it. But they will experience several benefits like:

  • Improved physical health and less chance of disease
  • More money
  • Feeling more fit

These are just some of the many benefits of quitting smoking.

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Published Decem­ber 20th2019
Last updated Jan­u­ary 24th2020
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.

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