Why do some people start smoking at age 14?

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Children generally begin to smoke at an early age for a number of reasons.  Among the reasons cited by the American Lung Association why children as young as 11 begin smoking are peer pressure, they see their parents smoking, they see smoking as a sign of independence and as a way of rebelling, and they are influenced by tobacco industry advertising that targets them.

For decades, cigarette smoking has been viewed by pre-teens and teenagers as "cool."  As they grow from young children, they see older kids standing on sidewalks near their schools smoking cigarettes and they emulate that behavior.  That smoking by teenagers is widely viewed as rebellious, as something of which adults disapprove, is a good enough reason for many children to begin smoking.

In 1970, Congress passed and President Nixon signed into law legislation banning cigarette advertising from television and radio.  Concern about the effectiveness of cigarette advertising -- which glamorized smoking and made it appear "manly"-- on young, impressionable children was so strong, that Congress felt compelled to act.  Cigarette advertising continued in print media, however, like in magazines that are oriented toward teenagers.  In 1984, tobacco companies were required to print on cigarette packages health warnings regarding the link between smoking and heart and lung disease.  In 2010, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act was passed, which prohibited tobacco companies from sponsoring public events, like concerts and sporting competitions.  

All of this effort has been an attempt at preventing children from adopting the habit of smoking cigarettes, the chemicals in which are highly addictive and highly dangerous.  Because children continue to identify cigarette smoking with a certain image, however, the tobacco companies continue to thrive.  

While the government has continued to try and control the problem of smoking, the health costs of which amount to billions of dollars for treatment of lung cancer, heart disease and other ailments linked to tobacco, the tobacco companies have expanded their marketing campaigns in foreign countries, succeeded in addicting large and profitable new markets on their products.  

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