Why Kids Start Smoking

Almost 70 percent of adult smokers began smoking before they turned 18. Most smokers try their first cigarette around the age of 11, and many are addicted but the time they turn 14. So why start smoking in the first place?

  • Their parents are smokers.
  • Peer pressure – their friends encourage them to try cigarettes and to keep smoking.
  • They see smoking as a way of rebelling and showing independence.
  • They think that everyone else is smoking, and that they should too.
  • Tobacco advertising targets teenagers.

The majority of children in elementary school and the early part of middle school have never tried a cigarette. Most will tell you that they will never smoke cigarettes. But as they get older, some will become more open to the idea of smoking.

Cigarette companies shape their advertising campaigns to portray smokers as cool, sexy, independent, fun, attractive and living on the edge – images that are appealing to many teens. As a result, they try smoking and many get hooked. Only 5% of high-school-age smokers believe they'll still be smoking 5 years after graduation but they don't understand how difficult quitting can be. Research shows that after eight years, 75% of those smokers will still be using some form of tobacco.

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama on June 22, 2009, contains several provisions aimed at preventing young people from starting to smoke.

Here are a few of the regulations approved:

  • Ban all outdoor tobacco advertising within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds.
  • Ban all remaining tobacco-brand sponsorships of sports and entertainment events.
  • Ban free giveaways of any non-tobacco items with the purchase of a tobacco product or in exchange for coupons or proof of purchase.
  • Limit advertising in publications with significant teen readership as well as outdoor and point-of- sale advertising, except in adult-only facilities, to black-and-white text only.
  • Restrict vending machines and self-service displays to adult-only facilities.
  • Require retailers to verify age for all over-the-counter sales and provide for federal enforcement and penalties against retailers who sell to minors.

If you want more information about smoking, please go to the American Lung Association website.

Use with permission by the American Lung Association ©.