Smoking rates have gone way down in the last three decades, for a number of reasons. It’s widely known how terrible smoking is for your health; the government has made a lot of changes to warning labels and availability of cigarettes, and people just know more. So, despite these efforts, why do 19% of Americans still smoke?
- It still carries some cachet: Despite the fact that as a general rule smoking is not the “cool” habit it once was, it still carries a certain connotation - one of independence and rebellion that we see in movies, on TV, even in books. Smokers are depicted as rogues who scoff at the rules and regulations of society, which can be enticing.
- Sometimes, it’s still about peer pressure, even for adults. No, it doesn’t necessarily sound like it does in after school specials --“everyone’s doing it.” Peer pressure may be a misnomer. It’s more like group thinking. If all of your friends and colleagues ride their bikes, you are more likely to as well. The hive mentality goes for good things, and not so good.
- It both stimulates and calms us. Elements in tobacco (not to mention what additives they sneak in there) stimulate - like caffeine, while at the same time slow down our nervous system. The ritual of lighting up provides a “time out.” We can develop an oral fixation for cigarettes while enjoying having something for our hands to do. Cigarettes also make us aware of our deep breathing, therefore relaxing us.
But ultimately there is one major reason why we still smoke that we all know: Smoking is, was, and always will be, highly addictive. Check out our prior blog on the ins and outs of smoking and stopping. Most hospitals now have outpatient resources to help those wishing to quit. The American Cancer Society has lots of online tools and advice, as does Maryland's SmokingStopsHere.com.