Kids Don’t Think Smoking is Dangerous


Right on the heels of a study that showed that even with the confounding factor of height (which, apparently, is correlated with a higher risk of cancer in women), smoking carries a significant cancer risk, another study, this one dealing with substance abuse and mental health, declared that teenagers and young adults do not view smoking as a high-risk activity.

The study was conducted on a state-by-state basis.  The perceived risks of smoking dropped significantly among teenagers in 14 states, and among young adults in a shocking 31 states.  The number of states where people older than 26 failed to recognize smoking’s health risks was lower – in just 9 states, the perceived risks of smoking decreased in this age group.

According to the survey, 28% of Americans had used tobacco in the last month.

The study was surprising in the wake of the news that teen smoking had declined among American teenagers.  Some saw a connection between the number of movies in which actors smoke, which has fallen significantly in the past five years, and the lower rates of teen cigarette smoking and experimentation with tobacco.  But these media influences can’t seem to explain young adults’ changing perceptions about cigarette smoking and risk.

At the same time, as a member of the demographic that seems to be the least concerned about the health risks associated with cigarettes, these findings make sense to me.  My guess is that most people who have this attitude smoke socially, and thus do not feel that they are at risk.  Even though they may not be smoking “heavily,” however, cancer is still a serious concern.

These findings can help the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration help individual states target their funding.  As this study shows, perceptions and practices are highly localized, and subject to change.  ”No state is free from the unique impact of mental and substance use disorders,” explained SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “Data like these give states the information they can use to target their prevention and treatment activities for the greatest benefit to their residents.”

It’s disturbing, though, to think that so many teens and young adults are discounting the dangers associated with cigarette smoking.  Perhaps the United States should think about taking a leaf out of Iceland’s book, and consider making cigarettes prescription-only.

Related Stories:

Tall Women More Likely to Develop Cancer

Big Tobacco Spent $100 Million Plus on Politics in CA in the Past Decade

Iceland Considers Selling Cigarettes By Prescription Only

Photo from Marco Gomes via flickr.


Sheamus W.
Past Member 4 years ago

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Sheamus W.
Past Member 4 years ago

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Peggy Peters
Peggy Peters6 years ago

It is not a mystery, folks, smoking kills the smoker as while as by-standers.
Let me be clear, it is every person's right to choose to puff or not to puff.
If you choose to walk the path of smoke then, please remember, in public areas, we ALL are trying to convert oxygen in to carbon dioxide. Cigarette smoke impedes the body's ability perform this task, so be kind and don't light-up around others.

Gill Armstrong
Gill A6 years ago

The teenagers have probably seen the same sort of things I have, for example: 80yr old, 40 a day smokers still going strong and a 30yr old non smoker, who rode his bike to work every day dying of cancer. Nothing to do with car fumes I suppose.
I am a smoker and I'm not one of "the most selfish people on the planet", that would be car drivers.They drive around, sometimes on ridiculously short journeys, pumping out fumes that I've got absolutely no choice but to breath. I only smoke in my own flat. I honestly believe that you get more crap on your lungs from 10 minutes standing at a bus stop, breathing in car fumes, than you would standing next to a smoker.
Also can someone answer me this? In Britain we have less people smoking than there's ever been but our child asthma rates have more than doubled and lung cancer deaths are also up.
When the powers that be, start being truthful (!?) and release details about just how much car pollution we are breathing in, cigarettes are going to look totally harmless by comparison.
One more point: here in Britain they want to take cigarettes off display and put them under the counter, whilst leaving rows and rows of cheap alcohol on display, which causes far more deaths than smoking ie. the drinkers themselves, the people near to them who suffer their drunken rages and also the people who die because of drink/drivers.
When alcohol is banned totally and when cars are banned totally, then I'll give up smoking.

Grace Adams
Grace Adams6 years ago

As a public health measure the federal government really ought to exercise the right of eminent domain to do a hostile takeover of the tobacco firms and put them out of business. Make alternative nicotine delivery systems readily available--but get rid of other tobacco products. But of course, we never will, tobacco is just too profitable to politicians.

Laura K.
Laura Kornak6 years ago

I currently have a good friend who has lung cancer. Anyone who wants to see what someone has to go thru suffering this should take a look at someone who has lung cancer & they will definitely think TWICE! She's only had it for one month, cannot even feed herself, can't go to the bathroom or even walk. This is a crying shame as it COULD of been prevented had she not smoked most of her life!!! Let's teach our children more and set good examples for them!

Noel S.
Noel S.6 years ago

In the U.K.smoking on programmes on the Television is making a comeback. Its not banned.
In my opinion Secondary Schools could do more. A mere 20 yards from the school to the nearest little corner shop is where they club-together to share a packet, and from there its just abit further to the little back-alley around the next corner. They should ban the sales of tobacco within a full quarter-mile of any Secondary School. No exceptions.

But know that no-one their age Ever Ever dies from Lung Cancer.
And when you are a kid - the age of 25 is considered ancient.

ryan b.
Ryan B6 years ago

If I am not mistaken it is written on the package that smoking can basically kill you, not in so many words. I will not believe for one second that anyone who smokes or is thinking of starting actually believes otherwise. Has the smoke ruined your brains as well as your lungs and heart and blood vessels and every other organ in your body and the bodies of those around you who have to breath in your expelled air and the crap off your coffin nails? Smokers are the most selfish people on the planet. The believe their right to smoke supercedes all other rights of all other beings.

Jonathan Polansky

Of course smoking is addictive. And 90% of smokers start in their teens. That's why aggressive, well-funded anti-smoking campaigns directed at teens are so important. Prevention is a lot cheaper than quit programs.

Unfortunately, prevention programs — especially tobacco prevention — are the first to be cut on the state level because there's really no graft potential and the GOP is close to the tobacco industry. In 2008, states spent $717 million on tobacco prevention; in 2010, $569 million. That's a drop of more than 20%.

Since every cohort of teens needs to be equipped to resist tobacco marketing (and part of that is knowing the health risks), cuts mean a whole slice of teens are missing the message these days.

Ironically, ten big states* are spending more to subsidize movies that promote smoking than they invest in tobacco prevention. The result is perfectly predictable.

* Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania and South Carolina. Search on "film incentives" and your state's name, then contact your legislators. Unless they take money from tobacco companies, they should respond.

Judith H.
Judith H6 years ago

Wish I'd never started, the addiction to it is equal to heroin addiction or worse, so I've read.