Why are People Still Smoking

Tobacco has been growing for about 8,000 years, but it has been 2,000 years since it began being used for chewing and smoking during cultural or religious ceremonies and events, according to the Cancer Council (2015). Contrary to popular belief, a correlation between tobacco and bad health was found much earlier than what some might think. The timeline of discoveries goes back over 415 years ago, meaning humans have known tobacco is not beneficial to our health for that many years. As one of the first examples, an anonymous English author discovered in 1602 was the possibility tobacco may have the same effects as soot, which caused illnesses for chimney sweepers. Then in 1795, Sammuel Thomas von Soemmering of Maine, Germany had reported that he was becoming more aware of lip cancers among pipe smokers (Cancer Council, 2015). Shortly after that in 1798, an American physician named Benjamin Rush wrote on the health dangers of tobacco. Things begin to escalate during the 1920’s when reports linking smoking cigarettes to lung cancer were appearing. However, according to Cancer Council’s information there were countless newspaper editors who would not report this information because they did not want to turn off companies who advertised smoking cigarettes as it was portrayed as being lavish and fancy.

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Finally, in the 1950’s-1960’s there had been multiple major medical reports which did in fact prove that tobacco caused multiple diseases including various forms of cancer. Despite the growing awareness of the effects of tobacco and the decline of its use after acquiring this knowledge, people are still participating in smoking activities. People may still engaging in it because it is their coping mechanism to the stresses of their every day life in society leading to an addiction, they still have access to it because it is not illegal notwithstanding what it can cause to our health, social situations causing them to smoke, and they are also beginning new smoking trends under the impression that it is healthier.

All individuals experience stress throughout their daily lives and attempt to eliminate stress in different ways. As stated in our medical sociology class notes, stress is a state of imbalance within a person, elicited by an actual or perceived disparity between environmental demands and the person’s capacity to cope with these demands (Weiss & Lonnquist, 2017, Sociology of Health, Healing, and Illness). Stress can literally kill. However, so can some of the coping mechanisms people use in order to deal with it. The list of life events, small or big, that can cause stress are endless. People experience stress within their family, friends, financials, careers, marriage, and so many others. Some significant stressors can include the death of a loved one, divorce, moving to a new place, major illness/injury, job loss, and so on and so forth. It is no wonder some may feel obligated to resort to coping techniques that are not healthy, but ease the stress, therefore getting the job done.

Everyone can put all options into consideration and make their own decision as to how they want to alleviate certain things. One may choose to exercise after feeling stressed, another may sleep, and someone else may choose to smoke. Smoking is known to reduce stress, anger, and irritability. When people become addicted, smoking then maintains and strengthens homeostatic responses that regulate against a variety of stress-induced swings from a stable “reference level” (Howard Leventhal and Paul D. Cleary, 1977, p. 15). According to Leventhal and Cleary, there is substantial data showing that individuals have more difficulty quitting while they are coping with stressful jobs. Also, many smokers among blue collar workers quit smoking when they transition into a more stable time in their life, which means exposure to less work and less social stress. During a study, it was found that smoking is a strong predictor of material hardship independently of marital status (which causes great stress), lack of educational qualifications, low income, manual work, claiming welfare benefits, and social tenancy (M Siahpush, R Borland, and M Scollo, 2003, p. 60).

When there is less stress within a society, it is easier for those experiencing it to quit smoking because they are no longer trying to alleviate the cause. Furthermore, it has been found that smokers will show fewer signs of anger and irritability if they smoke during stressful tasks. For most smokers, it is confirmed that “indeed, smokers reliably report that they smoke more when they are stressed, angry, anxious, or sad and they hold the expectation that smoking will alleviate these negative moods (Jon D. Kassel, Laura R. Stroud, and Carol A. Paronis, 2003 p. 270).

When my brother had to have a surgery when he was just a baby, my non-smoking parents informed me that they each had a cigarette because they were so nervous and scared. Even though this one cigarette each did calm them down significantly, they did not become addicted because they knew the possible consequences that could happen if they did. However, my grandfather who was born in 1942 was not as lucky with this. He started smoking when he was just twelve years old because that was normal, and the dangers of smoking were not as emphasized as they are today. Throughout his career, he had very successful but challenging days, causing him to come home from a hard day of work and unwind by smoking a cigarette, or several. Although he did quit decades prior to diagnosis, he passed away due to lung cancer in 2012.

Furthermore, there is also a social aspect to smoking. People who practice social smoking are known as “social smokers”. Even if your friend is not “peer pressuring” you and practically forcing you to smoke, you still feel a certain obligation because you do not want to seem “uncool” around when your friends as everyone else is doing it except for you. It is human nature. So then, these individuals begin to smoke when they are around friends who are doing it, such as at a party or bar. In order to fit in or look “cool” they smoke just because everyone else it, but do not actually like to do it on their own. Unfortunately, there have been instances where people in these situations end up becoming addicted in the long run anyways. It hard to believe that some people still classify smoking as being perceived as cool and attractive.

People who know cigarettes have only negative consequences try to quit cigarette smoking may turn to different alternatives that they may view as being healthier, such as vaping. Or, they are just enjoying the trend. Since its popularity, there are younger people who have never smoked a cigarette before who are partaking in vaping. Vaping is a new trend, and anyone can see that it has grown tremendously within the past few years. It especially started becoming very popular when flavors of them came out. These are battery-powered devices that provide nicotine to the user and are known for being a less harmful alternative than smoking tobacco. However, there have been situations where people who begin smoking with vapes eventually try cigarettes. Because of this, it is possible that the “safer” alternative to cigarettes may actually lead people to smoke cigarettes. My uncle who used to be a social smoker in his college days and eventually became addicted, owns an electronic cigarette and uses it when he is experiencing significant amounts of stress. According to him, it apparently does the trick, however he did mention that it is a possibility it is all in his head. Because of this, I think about others who may be feeling the same exact way. They may want to quit and feel relieved when they discover this alternative, but how much more beneficial can it really be?

As stated in an article published by Addiction Research and Theory, toxic chemicals have been identified in electronic cigarette vapor but one review concluded that “electronic cigarette vapor is substantially lower in toxic content, cytotoxicity, associated adverse effects and passive toxicity exposure, when compared to tobacco smoke” (Frances C. Sherratt and Michael W. Marcus, 2015, p. 336). According to a report by UBS Securities LLC, sales from the e-cigarette market doubled from $250 to $500 million between 2011 and 2012. Personally, I know of so many non-smokers who now smoke vapes and electronic cigarettes daily. Yes, so this is really different than former smokers picking a more healthy version. This is people going from being healthy to a not-healthy habit. Additionally, people will do it anywhere and everywhere. Sometimes I will be sitting in the library and I will see a cloud of smoke coming from a desk not too far from me. Even walking around campus, clouds of smoke everywhere.

Smokers who turned to vaping mostly wanted to because electronic cigarettes were advertised a way technique to quitting smoking altogether and they had a realistic look, feel, and taste compared to traditional cigarettes. Along with the hope of it being a successful quitting mechanism, they were also marketed as being a cheaper and safer alternative. However, since vaping has become such a popular trend, people who have never even smoked a cigarette before are engaging and even addicted to vaping. The FDA has reported that e-cigarette cartridges and solutions contain nitrosamines, diethylene glycol, and other contaminants potentially harmful to humans. Even though people have been made aware of this, they still cannot quit their addiction cold turkey, and still find this alternative beneficial because it is slightly healthier. Regardless of the effects, they conclude it just must be better than lung cancer and other major illnesses. Add in info on marketing to kids and trends among teens and young adults?

There are some worries pertaining to vaping. It is a natural human instinct to become addicted to something. So, when one becomes addicted to electronic cigarettes, a non-smoker may begin to wonder what the real deal (tobacco cigarettes) are like. Because of this, there is a concern that the electronic cigarettes may encourage one to participate in tobacco smoking, rather than discourage. David C.L. Lam has suggested that inhalation of vapor from electronic cartridges has been shown to augment inflammatory changes and short-term usage of e-cigarettes has been shown to adversely affect lung function (2014, p. 945).

A government possesses the ability to attempt to ban anything. So, why hasn’t the government banned cigarettes as they are fully aware of the consequences? Most of us are familiar with the history of prohibition and how it was not very successful. Abolition “leads to a hard to control black market which requires significant government resources to suppress” (Lambert, 2006, p. 17). Black trade with illegal luxury goods is also a catalyst for organized crime-syndicates to form which then tend to commit various other crimes. There have however been several attempts to decrease the consumption of cigarettes including increased taxation (the prices of cigarettes have increased tremendously throughout the years), bans on advertising, promotion of cessation, and expansion of smoke-free spaces (Proctor, 2013, p. 127). It is hard to believe that there was a time when people could smoke on airplanes. In addition, it was not too long ago when you could also smoke in basically any location including restaurants which led to “smoking sections”.

Abolishing the sale of cigarettes would result in savings in the realm of healthcare costs, increased labor productivity, lessened harms from fires, reduced consumption of scarce physical resources, and a smaller global carbon footprint, to name a few. But cigarettes have become a massive industry. According to The Tobacco Atlas, estimates of revenues from the global tobacco industry likely approach a half trillion U.S. dollars annually. In 2010, the combined profits of the six leading tobacco companies was U.S. $35.1 billion. There are several reasons as to why the government refrains from banning smoking completely because they prefer gradually undermining the social acceptance of it as a long-term strategy.

First, there would be a massive amount of smokers who would demand their right to smoke. Being prohibited from it would therefore cause the possibility of people not voting for certain politicians solely because the politicians made aware to the public that they supported the ban Economically, there are many people who would lose their jobs if this industry were to come to an end. People who are employed within cigarette production would no longer have a job when their companies are forbidden from selling them. The World Bank (2004) estimates that tobacco farming employs about 33 million people worldwide. Having jobs in our communities and society is a very important social factor. Thus, no government wants to be responsible for job decline. Everything always revolves around money. The additional tax on tobacco products generates a significant amount of tax income. If smoking were to be banned, the income would disappear. This would then lead to cuts on government spending or a higher deficit, and no one wants that.

Increasing the prices only influences those who cannot afford them to want to steal, causing a whole other issue. The World Bank has recommended that “governments increase tobacco tax to about 65% of retail price”. Increasing tobacco prices also increases the chances of cigarette theft, smuggling, and counterfeiting. According to a report by Phillip Morris, “smokers are doing their country a huge favor by boosting tax revenue, dying early, and not drawing a pension” (Zosia Kmietowicz, 2001, p. 126). There is a possibility that governments may be under the impression that by not banning cigarettes, they are saving money caused by premature deaths of smokers. Areas they may save money in include healthcare, pensions, and housing for the elderly.

Smoking has been around for so long that it has become part of our culture. run-on We will unfortunately always have access to it whether it is legal or not. As someone who has never smoked anything in their life, it is hard for me to understand why there are people still smoking as they are fully aware of the consequences. In order to be more open-minded, I often think about what I do to alleviate any stress and I think about how much it helps me. Then, I can better understand how hard it might be for one to quit because I simply cannot imagine being able to quit ice cream, exercising, taking naps, and many other things I do to make myself feel better. I may also be so against it considering I lost my grandfather due to smoking, so I often wonder why anyone could continue to smoke knowing what it could mean for their health and lives. People are still engaging in smoking for many reasons.

To conclude a few, smoking may be a person’s coping mechanism to the stresses of their everyday life in society leading to an addiction, they still have access to it because it is not illegal notwithstanding what it can cause to our health, social situations causing them to smoke, and they are also beginning new smoking trends under the impression that it is healthier. Throughout research, I believe it is evident smoking (cigarettes, vaping, etc.) will not become illegal, at least not anytime soon. It is has grown to be too big of an industry. I will admit however, that I would not like to see so many people losing their jobs since it employs countless people. Society can only hope people take the dangers of their health more seriously and end their relationship with smoking.

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Why Are People Still Smoking. (2019, Feb 05). Retrieved November 26, 2022 , from

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