In 2008-9, according to the Youth Smoking Survey, 22% of youth in grades 6 through 9 and 48% in grades 10 to 12 reported having tried a tobacco product at least once. 3% of those in grades 6 to 9 and 13% of those in grades 10 to 12 reported being current smokers.
So why do kids and teens smoke? Many factors influence whether kids smoke or not and they include:
- Peer influence: This is the most common reason that kids and teens, especially girls, start to smoke. Kids whose friends smoke are more likely to start smoking, as it gives them a sense of belonging.
- Adult smoking: When kids and teens see adults, especially their parents or other family members, smoke, they will be more likely to smoke because they will perceive smoking as normal behaviour and something that is grown-up and mature.
- Coping with stress: Just like adults, kids and teens can use smoking to relieve stress. Nicotine inhaled by cigarettes rapidly activates the reward and pleasures areas of the brain, creating positive feelings and sensations.
- Advertising: Unfortunately, tobacco companies often gear marketing towards teens and children. They are a key demographic: most people who become regular smokers start smoking in their teens.
- Media: When kids and teens see movies and television shows where actors smoke, they are more likely to try smoking since they often look up to actors and want to emulate their behaviour.
Read "Talking to kids and teens about smoking" to find out what you can do to help deal with kids and teens smoking.
Written and reviewed by the MediResource Clinical Team