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Smoking becomes a symbol of anti-cultural rebellion and even more so it takes on the symbol of something holy unrealistic and undesirable. The basic affect is to create a sense of empowerment as a result of smoking they feel that they are now better than they were before, in both a sense of adulthood as well as "counter-culture" mentality. Teenagers all desire to rebel against the normalcy of society, this is a natural response to the restrictions that society institutes upon teenagers. The decision to "go against the grain" is one that teenagers make in subtle and forthright ways, whether it takes the form of not doing homework or arguing with parents. Smoking has become such a controversial subject, through it's almost bombardment of health information and anti-smoking campaigns, that it epitomizes the one thing that youth can do to fight against the establishment. This becomes a crucial reason for why teenagers begin the process of smoking in the first place.
Now that there is a formal understanding of the mentality of smoking from a cerebral perspective we have to approach the problem of why individuals continue to smoke from a sociological perspective. The problem with cigarette smoking is that it has the additive substance of nicotine, which provides a strong stimulus that becomes physically addictive after as short a period as two weeks of chronic smoking. However, studies have conclusively shown that although nicotine addiction is a strong impetus for individuals to quit smoking, it is not the nicotine craving that individual's desire but rather the habit of smoking. Adults reported that the number one thing they miss about smoking is the physical habit of holding cigarettes and taking smoking breaks. Smoking becomes a psychological addiction for several reasons. The first reason is that smoking allows a mental "fresh-break," so that individuals can preoccupy themselves. Second, it becomes a social habit that categorizes them and their friendships creating a social impetus to continue smoking. Finally, smoking becomes a stigmatized typecast that creates a necessity to smoke in order to fit into social roles.
The first reason for smoking is the simplest; it is purely because smoking has become an ingrained habit. Individuals rely on smoking "breaks" as a substitute for relaxation, the mental reflexes associated with smoking promotes this type of mentality. Although this reason is an implicitly psychological one, it leads to the next two sociological reasons for why individuals persist to smoke.
The foremost reason that adults continue to smoke even when they realize or suffer the harmful affects of smoking is because they gravitate towards social circles of smokers. Smoking is a naturally social habit because individuals have to take "breaks" together, and smoking is a chronic event that individuals who smoke are naturally segregated into friendship circles and peer groups that engage in the same activity. The inevitable result of this behavior is that individuals see themselves as part of a social circle that each relies on smoking as a social institution. Each member of the social group reinforces the other's need to continue smoking because those who do not smoke naturally feel like they are left out of their social circle. The herd mentality once again is extends to the adult segment as they too desire social acceptance. Thus, even those individuals who desire to quit cannot do so because they feel trapped into their social clique.
The second reason for smoking is a much broader stigmatization that occurs for these individuals. Individuals who smoke are typecast by society as "evil" based upon current anti-smoking rhetoric. This is evidenced by the disproportionate number of laws that restrict smoking and general attitude of negativity from nonsmokers and society in general against those who smoke. Although, one would believe that this kind of social ostracism would lead to individuals wanting to smoke less, the opposite is true. Individuals who already smoke want to maintain their habit to not only asserts their independence but because they feel they are unjustly being stigmatized. The inevitable backlash is that they feel like they cannot adequately fit into established social conventions. This drives them not only to become even more recalcitrant when it comes to quitting, but it also increases their interactions with only smokers. The reinforcement mechanism is that social stigmatization increases the uniform tight knit culture of social smoking and actually increases the likelihood that individuals will desire to smoke.
The three reasons cited above are the primary reasons that people begin to smoke, however to understand how individuals stop smoking once they conclusively decide to give up will show that in order to stop smoking an entrenched group effort must be made. Since smoking begins because individuals feel the necessity to "fit in" and the implicit reason individuals continue to smoke is also because they want to fit in, it is natural to assume that the only way to stop this process is if a similar group mentality is taken in applying "stop smoking" programs. Statistics show that individuals who attend group therapy sessions to quit smoking are five times as likely to quit as individuals who try on their own. The reason for this is because those who smoke in group therapy sessions rely on each other to create a new social circle that does not smoke and are united by their goal of not smoking. Thus, they once again feel acceptance without the need of using cigarettes as social catalyst. There are already many implicit reasons that individuals want to quit smoking, the most often cited reason for adults is that they are concerned over the long-term health implications. However, to quit entails not just the stopping of an addictive habit but the breakdown of established friendships and social networks. Those individuals who smoke are leaving behind an ingrained habit, a group of friends that continue to smoke and also the conformity and unity with smokers that they felt with the habit. Therefore the act of quitting smoking is much more of a sociological decision than a physical or psychological one. The need to maintain one's strong group of friends is the strongest impetus for people who do not want to quit as well as those who cannot successfully quit. The establishment of group therapy programs and strong "friendship support networks" are essential in the future for the success of stop smoking programs.
Overall however, the outlook is bright for Canadian non-smoking campaigns. For the first time this last year, there are more ex-smokers than current smokers in Canadian society. Those who use to smoke have made the conscious decision to stop the cycle for their loved ones and children. Smoking begins with Canadian youth who are influenced by social media as well as adults and society to begin smoking and it perpetuates because of the social typecasting and overall clique nature of smokers. The herd mentality is the strongest impetus for all three stages of a smoker's cycle, because individuals associated smoking as a strongly social activity. However, as society moves away from smoking as a socially accepted medium, more and more youth will look to smoking less as anti-culture and more as irrelevant. As this process continues the next decade will see less and less smokers both take up and perpetuate this disgusting habit.
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