Why Kids Start Smoking | American Lung Association

Why Kids Start Smoking

Most adult smokers began smoking before they turned 18, and many were addicted at even younger ages. So why do kids 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 price is right—in places where low tobacco taxes have kept the price down, it is easier for kids to get cigarettes.

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 never will 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 appeal to many teens. As a result, they try smoking and many get hooked. Only 5 percent of high-school-age smokers believe they'll still be smoking five years after graduation, but they don't understand how difficult quitting can be. Research shows that after eight years, 75 percent of those smokers still will use some form of tobacco.

Know a teen who is ready to quit smoking? The American Lung Association’s Not-On-Tobacco (N-O-T) program is designed for 14 to 19 year old smokers who want to quit. Contact your local American Lung Association office to find out if N-O-T is available in your area.


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