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Why do teens fall into the cigarette trap?

Today, everyone knows cigarettes are hyper-dangerous to health. So why are there still some teens who smoke?

There’s no easy answer to this question. But what people need to know is that almost all smokers try their first cigarette when they’re teens or young adults. Nearly 90% of today’s adult smokers began smoking before the age of 20. In fact, the vast majority started when they were still in high school.

First of all, this suggests that smoking is kids’ behaviour, not adult behaviour – which is somewhat ironic, since most teens start smoking because they want to behave in a way they associate with adults. What a joke!

Their perception can be explained by four main reasons :

First reason: Social influence

It’s a well-known fact that people learn by example. So when a teen has a parent, brother or sister who smokes, he or she is more likely to become a smoker as well. Phrases such as “it’s our only pleasure” or “it’s a personal choice” can also give the impression that smoking is ordinary and normal.

Friends and family often tend to minimize the dangers of tobacco. For example, most of us, at some time or another, have heard someone say, “if it doesn’t kill me, something else will”, or “granddad smoked all his life and it didn’t kill him”. Have a look at the FAQ section to see how to respond to remarks such as these. If it’s not enough, don’t hesitate to ask your personal questions.

Easy access to tobacco products also encourages people to smoke. Examples include parents who buy contraband cigarettes for their children, or convenience stores that sell cigarettes to under-18s.

As you may have guessed, friends can play a major role in the decision to start smoking. Some teens smoke in order to become one of the “gang”. Research has shown that girls are more easily influenced than boys.

Teens like movies, and the movie industry likes… cigarettes. There are three times more smokers in movies than in real life. And it’s often the main characters who smoke. The result is that some teens start smoking to be like their idols.

Lastly, new tobacco product marketing is a highly effective way of attracting teens. A cherry-flavoured cigarillo is tempting and certainly doesn’t look dangerous. And yet, it’s just as harmful as unflavoured tobacco!

Second reason: Personality

The influence of other people and society in general is important in developing curiosity or an interest in trying cigarettes. But it doesn’t explain everything. Your personality is also a factor here. You may be subject to all the same influences as your best friend and still not smoke, whereas he or she will become addicted to tobacco – or vice-versa.

Some teens are more likely to think that “smoking is normal”, that it makes them seem “cool” or “sexy”, and that it’s a sign of maturity or independence. They’ll therefore be naturally attracted to people who smoke. For them, tobacco is a way of being accepted and becoming one of the gang.

Obviously, teens who start smoking live on the same planet as the rest of us, and are well aware of the risks to health. It’s simply that they place more importance on friendship, which is why they’d rather run the risk of being sick when they’re older, instead of the risk of being rejected now by their friends who smoke. It’s a shame; when you think about it, is this really something a true friend would do to you?

In other words, when cigarettes are seen as a way of finding friendship or love, everything else becomes secondary. Unfortunately, the price paid by smokers can be very high.

Third reason: Manipulation by the tobacco industry

When it comes to persuading teens to smoke, the tobacco industry has more than one trick up its sleeve. Most of its marketing is based on the use of images. It associates tobacco with strong images and symbols of seduction, pleasure and popularity, making teens believe that smoking is a good way of making friends. And so they try it, just to see…

The problem with this is that the nicotine contained in tobacco is a very powerful drug and the body quickly becomes addicted to it. The tobacco industry may use image as its bait, but the physical effects of nicotine are the hook it uses to reel in its victims.

Fourth reason: Addiction

The tobacco industry’s marketing tactics are designed to make you try your first cigarette. Once you’ve done that, nicotine takes over. When you inhale, it takes less than ten seconds for nicotine to reach your brain, and you quickly become addicted. Why? Because nicotine produces a sensation of pleasure and relaxation. Your body wants more.

The tobacco industry wants you to smoke your first cigarette as early as possible in your life. It knows from long experience that teens are easier to turn into drug addicts than adults.

Why is this? During adolescence, the brain undergoes an important period of development, with the result that teens, to varying degrees, are more inclined to take risks and try new things. This is perfectly normal.

Unfortunately, however, the timing is poor. During adolescence, your brain is also highly sensitive to rewards. Cigarettes, like all other drugs, generate strong reactions because they trigger a sensation of well-being in the brain. The risk that you’ll become addicted is therefore much higher.

Visit the forum to see how other people first started smoking, and share your opinions.

The components of tobacco smoke

Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemical

« components, over 50 of which are known to cause cancer.. » “It doesn’t matter. I smoke “100% natural”, “Indian” or “silk” cigarettes. It’s written on the pack. There can’t be any junk in them.” Does this sound familiar? Sorry, but it doesn’t change A THING: the smoke from these cigarettes is just as dangerous as smoke from any other cigarette.

When you burn a plant, whether it’s tobacco, pot (oh, yes) or your mom’s geraniums, the smoke NATURALLY contains all kinds of chemical components such as tar, carbon monoxide, cadmium and so on.

When you inhale smoke from a burning plant, your lungs absorb all these chemical products. .

Some of these substances come from the soil. They were instrumental in the plant’s growth. Others are produced by the chemical alterations that occur when a plant burns.

A third, smaller group of substances consists of the products added by the tobacco companies. Their purpose is to improve the taste and texture of the cigarettes, and regulate the speed at which they burn. Some cigarette brands even contain special additives or tobacco that’s been genetically modified to enhance the effects of nicotine and get people addicted more quickly! There’s plenty of iron-clad proof about this:

  • The laws that forced the cigarette companies to list the components of their cigarettes uncovered a very unpleasant surprise, namely that toxic products such as ammonia are used in cigarettes to release more nicotine into the lungs.
  • A large cigarette company has created a genetically modified tobacco plant known as “Y-1”, which contains twice as much nicotine as a normal plant.
  • In Canada, the nicotine content of cigarettes has increased by 53% since 1968. How did the tobacco industry do this? Easy ! through genetic modification, selecting the leaves that are richest in nicotine, and adding other ingredients.

It doesn’t matter whether all these chemical products occur naturally or are added by the industry. The fact remains that they are poisonouspoisonous to your lungs and your body in general. The health-related difference between smoking so-called “natural” cigarettes and major brand cigarettes is about the same as the difference betweenjumping out of a 30th floor window and jumping out of a 35th floor window.…

The truth is that when you inhale smoke very occasionally , for example, from a fireplace, an incense stick or a leaf bonfire in the garden – it’s not really dangerous. Why? Because your natural defence mechanisms are able to eject the smoke by-products from your system. Why? Because there aren’t many of them, and because it doesn’t happen often.

The cigarette trap

Mais c’est ici qu’arrive le problème avec le tabac : quand tu commences à respirer la fumée de cette plante, tu finis par en respirer de plus en plus souvent. Over time, you want it in increasing quantities, until in the end all you want is to fill your lungs on a regular basis. It’s the nicotine that makes you feel this way. For more information, see the Addiction section.

As you become addicted to cigarettes, your respiratory system is attacked repeatedly by the thousands of chemical components found in the smoke. And your body becomes increasingly affected.

What about smoking to stay thin?

So you think smoking helps you to control your weight and prevents you from getting fat? Let’s put this another way: to stay slim, do you really want to clog your system with more than 4,000 chemical products?

Think again:

You certainly didn’t start smoking as a way of losing or maintaining your weight. You probably started because you were curious, or wanted to be like your friends. And then, one day, you realized you couldn’t live without your cigarettes.

As you became addicted to cigarettes, you smoked more of them, and this affected your metabolism. Your weight may have dropped. It’s one of the potential side-effects of smoking.

Cigarettes can affect weight in three main ways:

  • It greatly diminishes your sense of taste, and hence the pleasure of eating.
  • It diminishes your sense of hunger.
  • It increases your body’s metabolism slightly, meaning that you use up a few more calories each day.

Be careful, though. Not all smokers lose weight. On the contrary, some actually gain weight. Cigarettes don’t increase your energy level, they reduce it, and if you have less energy, you’re less likely to want to move. The less you move, the more likely you are to gain weight.

Are you in the group that loses weight because you smoke? If so, you might consider this to be a benefit. Over time, however, you’ll pay a very high price:

  • Your general health will deteriorate. You’re more likely to get cancer, respiratory disease or heart disease.
  • You’ll suffer from shortness of breath, like an old person.
  • You’ll get premature wrinkles. Your complexion will be muddy and greyish. In other words, your appearance will suffer! This is because cigarettes reduce the amount of oxygen that reaches the cells, adversely affecting the body’s capacity to absorb the nutrients that are essential to your health.
  • If you’re a woman on the pill, you’re more likely to have a stroke.
  • You have one chance in two of dying prematurely.

Seriously, there’s a much healthier, and relatively easy, way of controlling your weight: be more active and eat better. Every day, be as active as possible. The more active you are, the more active you’ll want to be. Eat a variety of good quality foods, including lots of fruits and vegetables, and drink a lot of water.

A Québec study has shown that teenage girls who smoke aren’t any slimmer than those who don’t smoke. Still, maybe you’re afraid of gaining weight if you quit. If so, consult a nutritional specialist or visit one of the following websites: Extenso, Dieting: Information for teens.

Smoking makes you less stressed? People will say anything …

Stress is a disease of the modern era, and everyone wants a miracle cure. But it won’t be cigarettes. The general belief that smoking reduces stress is a myth.

People become addicted to nicotine very quickly. Nicotine also creates a host of reactions in the body, including a sense of relaxation. But this isn’t “true” relaxation! It’s only the sense of relief that smokers feel when they give their brain the dose of nicotine it needs.

The brain conveys its need for nicotine through a variety of withdrawal symptoms, such as tension or irritation. These symptoms occur at regular intervals whenever the smoker doesn’t provide the nicotine. Because humans are normally programmed to avoid pain and unpleasantness, smokers almost always end up lighting a cigarette.

In addition to the nicotine effect, the sense of relaxation and well-being that smokers feel when they light up also derives from the fact that they stop what they’re doing in order to smoke. They take a break, chat with their friends, and put their routine on hold. In other words, they relax. But you’re certainly capable of doing that without your cigarettes, aren’t you?

So that’s the true nature of the famous “relaxation” that smokers are so quick to talk about. In reality, it’s a vicious circle caused by their addiction to nicotine. The truth is that, rather than generating true relaxation, cigarettes are in fact a significant source of stress!

As long as a smoker keeps on smoking, he or she maintains the vicious circle of withdrawal -> stress -> relief -> withdrawal.

So smoking to reduce your stress level isn’t really a winning strategy. What do you think?

How smoking endangers your health

Becoming addicted to a product that makes you absorb more than 4,000 chemical products each time you inhale is certainly not the best way of living life to the full. If you need proof:

  • Tobacco smoke kills more than 37,000 people every year in Canada, including 10,400 in Québec. Throughout the world, it kills one person in every ten, or five million people in all, and this figure is expected to double by 2020. That’s four times more deaths than are caused by murders, alcohol, drugs and car accidents combined. Globally, 0ne person dies of smoking every 6.5 seconds.
  • Smoking is the direct cause of 33% of all cancers.
  • Between 85% and 90% of all lung cancers are caused by tobacco.
  • Smokers run a higher risk of contracting cancer of the throat, mouth, gums, tongue, pancreas, uterus, bladder and kidneys. They are more likely to suffer from heart problems and oral health problems (dental decay, tooth loss).
  • Smokers suffer from more respiratory problems (shortness of breath, coughing, asthma, colds and flu, bronchitis, emphysema, etc.). In addition, smoking reduces lung growth and can prevent the lungs from working to their full capacity.
  • Smokers are more likely to develop or aggravate existing psychological problems such as anxiety, depression, nervousness, etc.
  • Cigarettes are the leading cause of early death among women.
  • In addition to all the diseases mentioned above, women who smoke are exposed to other problems such as reduced fertility, cervical cancer, breast cancer, osteoporosis, menstrual disorders and so on.
  • Smoking leads to premature ageing of the skin: more, deeper wrinkles, pasty complexion, and so on.
  • Smoking increases the risk of miscarriage for pregnant women, and can cause impotence in men.
  • A recent Québec study revealed that teenage girls who smoke are no slimmer than those who do not smoke. And boys who smoke ten or more cigarettes per day between the ages of 12 and 17 will be smaller than their counterparts; the statistics show that they will measure up to 5 cm (2 inches) less than non-smokers of the same age.
  • Roughly 87,000 young people smoke in Québec. If they continue to do so, half of them will die from a disease caused by tobacco. Approximately 50% will die between the ages of 35 and 69 – in other words, 22 years before the average life expectancy. The others will die after age 70, between one and eight years before average life expectancy. According to some calculations, every cigarette reduces the smoker’s life expectancy by 11 minutes.

But there’s some good news too: the younger you are when you quit smoking, the better your body is able to recover from the damage caused by tobacco.

In addition, when you quit smoking, you also quit endangering the health and lives of the people around you who don’t smoke. In Canada, secondary smoke kills more than 1,000 non-smokers every year.

If you’d like to learn more about the impacts of smoking on health, click on the following links: Health Canada, Stop-tabac.ch, The smoker’s body.

The real truth about contraband

  • Although a lot of effort has been poured into the fight against tobacco, the percentage of smokers is still basically the same as it was in 2008. The main reason for this is that smokers can buy illegal tobacco very cheaply on virtually any street corner. This is what’s known as contraband tobacco.
  • Contraband tobacco sellers don’t charge tax, which is why their products are so much cheaper. In addition, the smugglers have managed to increase their production capacity quite significantly. Because they have so many more cigarettes to sell, they’re able to lower their prices.
  • How do you know if you’re buying illegal tobacco? It’s not hard: if you pay less for tobacco than you would in a normal convenience store, what you’re buying is illegal. Tobacco is also illegal when it’s bought by non-Aboriginals in an Aboriginal reserve.
  • In many cases, contraband packs are imitations of popular brands, while in others, the cigarettes are simply sold in plastic bags. Regardless of the wrapping, however, contraband cigarettes never come with health warnings (the horrible pictures on the packs).
  • The tobacco companies often point out that illegal tobacco isn’t of good quality because it’s not controlled. And that’s true. But they really can’t claim that legal tobacco, which contains 4,000 chemical products, is any “safer”. In fact, your chances of dying because you smoke are the same, regardless of where your tobacco comes from.
  • Québec’s illegal tobacco distribution network has even infiltrated the province’s high schools.
  • According to a survey of high school students in Canada, 13% of teen smokers smoke mainly contraband tobacco.
  • Thirty percent of all cigarettes smoked every day by teen smokers in Québec are contraband. That’s a huge number!
  • Teens who choose contraband tobacco smoke quite a bit more than those who buy legal brands, clearly proving that price has an impact on cigarette consumption!
  • When prices increase by 10%, consumption drops by 4.5% among adult smokers and by even more among teen smokers (up to 8%). In other words, the cheaper tobacco is, the more teens smoke. Tobacco smuggling therefore hinders the fight against tobacco as well as being harmful to health. It encourages teens to smoke more, discourages smokers from quitting, and causes relapse to those who’ve quit.
  • Some people claim that tobacco smuggling is the result of tax hikes. That’s not true! There’s no contraband tobacco in Manitoba, even though a carton of cigarettes costs $20 more than in Québec. Tobacco smuggling is caused by proximity to criminal networks and the inability of different governments to agree on what to do about it. There’s more contraband in Québec and Ontario than anywhere else in Canada.
  • The tobacco companies themselves were instrumental in the surge of contraband in the 1990s. According to revelations made during court cases in both the United States and Canada, the leaders of some of the major tobacco companies were involved in setting up a highly lucrative cigarette contraband system, causing governments to lose billions of dollars in various taxes. Today, the contraband market appears to have been taken over by organized crime, in partnership with groups of people from certain Aboriginal nations.
  • Roughly 40 criminal organizations are involved in smuggling tobacco in Québec. They ship illegal tobacco between Canada and the United States, along with drugs, arms and illegal immigrants.
  • These criminal organizations use the money they earn from contraband tobacco to reinforce their presence in drug smuggling, prostitution networks and other criminal activities.
  • If you buy contraband tobacco, you’re encouraging organized crime.
  • Based on this, it’s clearly urgent to work on public opinion among teens and adults alike, so that they don’t encourage criminal activity. If the fight against contraband tobacco is to be effective, it’s vital for the federal government to get involved, and for everyone concerned to join forces. The damage is counted in human lives.

Russell C Callaghan and al. Use of contraband cigarettes among adolescent daily smokers in Canada, http://www.cmaj.ca/cgi/content/abstract/cmaj.090665v1 , September 2009.
Société canadienne du cancer; Document question/réponse, tabagisme, contrebande et santé : situation actuelle au Québec, mai 2009.

A Brief History of Tobacco

3,000 years ago : Tobacco was first cultivated in America. It was a sacred plant thought to have curative powers, used by priests and shamans to communicate with the spirits and relieve pain.

1492 : Christopher Columbus discovered tobacco among the Indian communities living on the island we now call Cuba. He took it back to Europe, where it was used mainly as an ornamental plant.

1560 : Tobacco made a triumphant entry into France thanks to Jean Nicot (from whose name the word “nicotine” is derived), in the form of a curative powder. However, it was not long before the Europeans began to use tobacco for pleasure, consuming it as snuff or smoking it in a pipe.

1600 – 1650 : By now, tobacco was used throughout the known world, and had also attracted its first critics, who objected to it on moral grounds, as well as for its adverse effects. However, the kings and religious leaders, realizing how much money they would be able to earn from the plant, decided to tax it rather than banning it or, as was the case in some countries, threatening users with death or terrible corporal punishments.

1821 : The “Dictionary of Medical Science” asked for severe restrictions on tobacco use because of its “somewhat corrosive” effects on body tissue.

Circa 1830 : First appearance of cigarettes in Europe.

1843 : The beginning of industrial cigarette production, expanding the product’s regular consumer base to include society as a whole instead of just the very wealthy. The enormous amounts of money generated by tobacco products would allow the companies to resist the growing opposition from public health representatives by using every means at their disposal.

1930 : Invention of the filtered cigarette.

1950 : The filtered cigarette was finally launched onto the market by the major tobacco companies, to calm the potential fears of consumers in response to the growing number of attacks on cigarettes by public health researchers. For further information, see Tobacco Industry).

Mai 2003 :Thanks to a World Health Organization (WHO) initiative, 192 countries agreed on basic measures to help prevent smoking.

In Canada and Québec

1994 : Canada became a model for anti-smoking initiatives, with printed phrases such as “Cigarettes kill” covering 35% of the pack’s surface.

1997 : Severe government restrictions (labelling, promotion, accessibility) in response to strong pressure from health groups.

2000 : Illustrated warnings on packs.

2003 : Imperial Tobacco closed its factory in Saint-Henri.

2006 : Protection for non-smokers: smoking banned in bars, restaurants and school yards.

July 5, 2010 : Ban on flavours (except for menthol) in cigarillos and cigarettes.

If you feel tobacco marketing strategies are outrageous, if you want to know more about what’s happening and put your ideas in action, have a look at the Take Action section, it will surely inspire you.

Pollution (Cigarette butts, deforestation, impact on animals)

  • Roughly five billion cigarette butts (the figure five followed by 12 zeros!) are discarded into the environment by the world’s smokers.
  • Because they are made essentially from plastic, it takes between one and five years for cigarette butts to degrade in water, and up to 12 years on land.
  • Cigarette butts top the list worldwide as the most common marine waste material. They contribute to the deaths of thousands of marine animals, including fish, turtles and marine birds, which mistake them for food.
  • Discarded cigarette butts are often the cause of house fires and forest fires.
  • Every year, tobacco production leads to the destruction of an area of forest equivalent to approximately 100,000 soccer fields, and also impoverishes soils. More than 15 million additional people could be fed if food crops were planted instead of tobacco.
  • For every 300 cigarettes produced, one tree is killed. Trees must be cut down to plant tobacco, and are also needed as fuel for the drying process.
  • Smoking is thought to be a significant cause of global warming because of the deforestation needed to produce cigarettes.
  • Although growing numbers of smokers are sensitive to the environment, many still toss their cigarette butts, and even their packs and other smoking waste, onto the ground. Curiously, people seem to consider this behaviour as being somehow not as bad as throwing away a plastic bag! There’s clearly still a need for more awareness!


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