Categories
Addiction Adolescence Smoking

Smoking: Not So Cool Anymore

Smoking Alone...
Smoking Alone… (Photo credit: Dr. Jaus)

When I was growing up, smoking was emblematic of the Outsiders or James Dean or the Marlboro man. It was a symbol of “cool,” or of being a rebel or a badass. I grew up with tobacco ads emblazoned upon billboards across Los Angeles and littering the pages of magazines. What could possibly be wrong with smoking if it looked so cool, right? Wrong. Did you know that the three men who held the role of the Marlboro Man eventually died of lung cancer, and the infamous brand ended up with the nickname “Cowboy Killers“?  Still, it wasn’t until 1999 that smoking billboards were ultimately replaced with anti-smoking ads, despite efforts toward the prohibition of tobacco advertising building for years.

Finally, in 2009, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act went into effect. The Act requires placement of new warnings and labels on tobacco packaging and in tobacco ads; its ultimate goal is to deter minors and young adults from using tobacco products. Tobacco companies are also required to seek FDA approval for new products. But why am I talking legal Acts and advertising,  or reminiscing about the Marlboro Man? Because statistics gathered from a recent are showing us that teens are, in fact, finally smoking less! The full results of the survey done by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health can be found here.  However, I’ll give you a brief window into what the results showed. Perhaps those terrifying, graphic warnings are finally starting to work.

According to this study:

  • 1 in 11 (8.7 percent) adolescents smoked cigarettes in the past month.
  • Rates of adolescent past month cigarette use ranged from 5.9 percent in Utah to 13.5 percent in Wyoming
  • 10 States with the highest rates of past month cigarette use among adolescents, 4 were in the Midwest (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Ohio)
  • Of the States with the lowest rates of past month cigarette use among adolescents, 5 were in the West (California, Hawaii, Nevada, Utah, and Washington)

Teen perceptions of the danger of smoking are increasing:  2 in every 3 adolescents recognize that smoking is dangerous. This is a good thing. It would appear that smoking is no longer seen as cool. If anything, smoking has been relegated to outside locations, where smokers are allowed to smoke in small, outdoor spaces, which are a specified distance away from any doors. Smoking in this day and age would really just be a pain in the rear. The recent laws and views toward smoking have made it really a challenge for those who want to indulge. At this point, why bother?

Categories
Addiction Smoking

Hookahs: Exotic and Toxic

In part 3 of this series, we’ll be discussing one of the oldest smoking fads: the Hookah. (Click to read Part 1 and Part 2)

The hookah dates back to the 15th century, at which time its use was revered as one of prestige amongst the upper classes. According to some sources, the hookah was invented in India by Hakim Abu’l-Fath Gīlānī, a physician, who created this system to allow smoke to be passed through water so it could be “purified.” This is still a popular perception today, with many people smoking hookahs indiscriminately, assuming the “particles” from the tobacco are being filtered out.

The hookah, in its ornate beauty, allures the young, creating an illusion of social grandiosity. It might even have a glamorous, exotic appeal: the smoke is sweet, as they are often flavored with things like cherry and vanilla, and the hookahs themselves are often quite beautiful. What a wonderful metaphor, reminding us the outsides don’t always match the insides: the hookah experience may look and even taste good, but the damage it causes is deeply embedded in its smoky tendrils.

Partaking in a session of hookah smoking is often assumed to be less harmful than smoking cigarettes, but in reality, it’s not. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Hookah smokers may actually inhale more tobacco smoke than cigarette smokers because of the large volume of smoke they inhale in one smoking session, which can last as long as 60 minutes.” (I cough just thinking about this!) Hookahs come with their own set of risks, though, some of which include:

  • High levels of toxic compounds, including tar, carbon monoxide, heavy metals and carcinogens;
  • Exposure to more carbon monoxide than cigarette smokers;
  • Hookah smoking is linked to lung and oral cancers, heart disease and other serious illnesses;
  • Hookah smoking delivers about the same amount of nicotine as cigarette smoking does, possibly leading to tobacco addiction.

So before you cozy up in the hookah lounge, attempting to have an exotic experience with friends, think again. There are much better things to do with your time, like taking the opportunity to indulge in some fabulous Indian food instead. Save the smoky allure for the history books.

Articles of interest:

CDC Fact Sheet

Putting the Crimp in Hookah

Categories
Addiction Smoking

Smoking: Skinny, Gold, and Silver

Image via Wikipedia

It’s been some time since cigarettes were labeled “light’ or “low-tar.” These days, over 50 countries use “gold” or “silver,” in their branding. Despite the difference in nomenclature, the misperceptions about safety remain the same: many people believe that cigarettes labeled “light’ or “gold” are somehow better for you than the smokes in the red box. “Slim” brands, which are mainly targeted toward young women are also perceived as being better for you because they’re skinny, implying less poison per hit. The truth is, tobacco is tobacco, and none of it is good for you, no matter how you spin it.

Recently, Addiction Journal published a study in which over 8000 smokers from Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the USA were polled. Their findings showed “approximately 1/5 of the smokers polled believed ‘some cigarette brands could be less harmful than others.’” The research shows smokers tend to base their cigarette choices on color, they often believe smooth taste means less risk, and that filters really do reduce the risk of cancer.

One thing is for sure, the study proves a need for further regulation. One change we can eventually expect to see is plain packaging for any and all cigarettes. That means every box will look the same: sans logos, color, or graphics. Looks like Australia will be the first to try this out. It would be nice to see something take effect that successfully lessons the intrigue of smoking. If you don’t ever pick up, then you never have to quit, right? Also, if cigarette packaging ceases to look cool, there’s it’s one less reason to carry them in your purse or pocket.