Why did you start smoking?
That first ever nicotine encounter. Oh, how we hate it. That combination of curiosity and mild ignorance seems innocent at first. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of experimenting, especially when peer pressure kicks in. But, even those first few guilt-free puffs can ultimately lead to addiction, and we all know the end game is never pretty.
Truth is, if any experimental smoker starts crystal balling five years down the line, the habit would be way out of their lives. No one has a long-term commitment to nicotine; if anything, most people see it as that feel-good vice that they hope to shake off before it becomes anything serious. It’s like partying hard in your early 20’s, but telling yourself that you’ll swap it out for classy dinners when you get older.
But where does it all start? We dug the internet further, looking for the most common reasons people embrace their first nicotine encounter.
Why did you start smoking?
How does one decide they’re down to try one of the most health-wrecking, bound-to-become addictive practices? We went on a hunt and dug into the most common reasons people start smoking.
Ex-smoker Tom Rasmussen tells i-D that ‘there’s actually loads of reasons. ‘...your family don’t get you, so you decide that the easiest way to defy all of their constant rule imposing is to make a decision that you know they would disapprove of (secretly, of course).
Another smoker states quite the opposite, saying that having smokers in his family led to habit feeling somewhat comforting. ‘My father was a heavy smoker - three packs a day - so I came to associate the smell of smoke with home’, he explains. This led him to smoking forty cigarettes a day for the next twenty years of his life.
Some people have, of course, given into peer pressure. ‘Because my friends did it, it made me look cool - or, so I thought at the time. I was too chicken to try anything harder, and didn’t grasp just how addictive tobacco could be. It took a couple of years, but my smoking eventually became a habit, and one that I truthfully enjoyed for 14 years.’
According to Cheryl Perry, P.h.D., senior author, professor and regional dean at the School of Public Health in Austin, people now start smoking later than ever before; her research details that young adults are now more inclined to adopt risky behaviours later on in life, so people are more likely to smoke, drink and even use drugs recreationally during their adult years a lot older than previous generations. ‘This makes the battle against tobacco much bigger and more complicated’, concludes Perry.
The facts are in
Many novelty smokers actually introduce the habit to their lives as ‘risk-taking behaviour’; this fulfills the idea of a thrill and is particularly prominent in countries where smoking is frowned upon or associated with rebellion. Just like Rasmussen says; ‘if a loved one denigrates your nasty habit, you smoke for self-consolidation. If a stranger criticises, you presume them to be an idiot anti-choice tyrant and smoke in protest for freedom’. The downside of these rebellious acts? They ultimately lead to addiction, which is extremely hard to shake off.
Some studies also reveal that smoking generally gives people the impression of a ‘social reward’; sharing the habit with someone you’ve just met can result in a feeling of ‘acceptance and camaraderie’. Whilst peer-pressure is commonly thought of as one of the reasons people start smoking during their younger years, researchers state that the phenomenon is quite common with adults as well. ‘Individuals may also want to smoke to fit within a workplace as smokers can easily create a sense of bond over it’.
Whilst the sense of freedom that comes with lighting that first cigarette or puffing that first vape when you’re in your early twenties, the ultimate path to addiction quickly turns into a trap. According to research, smoking becomes a coping mechanism for many, with puffing having become an aid for emotional problems such as PTSD, negative moods, or simply the stress of everyday life. Beyond being a coping mechanism, smoking also becomes a pattern, deeply infiltrated in many people’s day-to-day lives.
The end of it all
What about stopping? For many smokers, that pleasurable sensation that comes with puffing slowly starts to fade, and nicotine becomes a physical need. ‘I didn’t really want to quit, but I didn’t really want to smoke’, is how Tom Rasmussen describes the end of his relationship with cigarettes.
When describing his life after quitting, Tom says it becomes easier when putting things into perspective. ‘Was it really with the cig in hand you fell in love? Was the sex really so good because of the post-coital smoke? When it was all over and he smack-talked you on Instagram was it really your trusty ciggy that helped dry those tears?’. The answer is no.
Tom speaks about dissociating smoking from some of your best memories (even though, for many smokers, nicotine would have been involved). ‘It’s always everything around the cigarette that made the moment worth remembering, even though your teens and twenties seem irrevocably tethered to your addiction to those pesky lung darts’.