When I was in high school, I had a friend who could smoke a pack of cigarettes one day, a single cigarette then next day, go off on vacation with her family and not touch a cigarette for a week, and then come back smoking just as many cigarettes as the day she left. I never did get that. Everyone else I knew was either all or nothing when it came to smoking, but this girl seemed to be able to alter her smoking patterns on a daily basis. And after reading the post last week about casual smoking increasing among U.S. teens, it seems my friend was just 20 years ahead of her time.
While most experts warn that any smoking poses health risks and the potential of becoming addicted, some analysts think that teens today have found a way to adapt to smoke-free environments and social anxiety about daily smoking while still "enjoying" the occasional cigarette with friends. This laissez-faire attitude scares me — a lot.
Not to be a hypocrite, I will say in full disclosure that I started smoking in high school and smoked for 15 years before I finally quit cold turkey. I was never one who could take it or leave it; I smoked every day until I finally threw those darned things out for good and never looked back. Maybe I just don't get it — but I think that any kind of smoking, even "casual" smoking, can lead to addiction down the road.
My friend who "casually" smoked cigarettes? She became a regular smoker in college. And when she wasn't smoking cigarettes, she smoked whatever else she could find. So I'm not sure that she really did her health any favors by only enjoying the occasional cigarette in high school. In fact, I think she set herself up to believe that she was immune to cigarette addiction. It came as a real shock to her when she realized that she was in fact a regular smoker and had to quit smoking altogether.
I guess the real test for today's teens will be in five or 10 years time when we find out if these teens grow up into day-to-day smokers. But by then it will be too late. These occasional teen smokers will be 20-something addicts who toss their money and their health in the trash with each pack.
So while I think it's great that teens are not smoking regularly, I don't think it's time to stop and pat ourselves on the back just yet.
Cigarette smoking is not a casual activity.
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