10: Peer Pressure
While there are certainly other influences that can lead a smoker into the habit, peer pressure is one of the biggest. A large part of the reason peer pressure comes under scrutiny is that one of the groups most likely to begin smoking -- young teenagers -- is also one of the most susceptible to peer pressure.
The awkward years between pure, dependent-on-parents childhood and independent young adulthood are marked for many by frustration and insecurity as status, family roles and physical changes happen in a hormone-addled flood. Quite often, this is the time of life when young people rely most heavily on friends of the same age for social support and affirmation.
Enter cigarettes. If a child in a social circle starts experimenting with tobacco, it's all too easy for him or her to lead peers into smoking as well -- the smoker doesn't want to be alone, and the not-yet-smokers don't want to be seen as afraid to try something risky or boundary-pushing.
9: Social Rewards
This reason for smoking is tied to peer pressure, although it's a little more complex and has the potential to affect more than just peer-pressure-sensitive tweens and teens. In short, social rewards are the "gifts" people feel they receive when participating in a group activity. Most often, this means some form of acceptance: Smokers at an office building who take cigarette breaks at similar times may bond while they smoke. Likewise, the relationship struck when one smoker asks another, "Got a light?" gives the participants a feeling of acceptance and camaraderie [source: Teen Drug Abuse].
Although many adults mature beyond the need to constantly please their peers, we carry into adulthood the teen's desire to be part of a group. And as smoking becomes more and more restricted, smokers find common ground in complaints over dirty looks and occasional ridicule from the nonsmoking public and the increasing limits on when and where they can smoke. This only makes the sense of camaraderie -- that social reward -- that much stronger for smokers. For nonsmokers who lack that social bond in their lives, that connection can be enough to drive them through the beginning phases of a tobacco addiction, when the chemical and psychological chains of addiction have yet to lock the smoker into the habit [source: Teen Drug Abuse].
8: Risk-taking Behavior
Adults in countries where smoking is frowned upon are familiar with the no-smoking signs, designated smoking areas and general restrictions on their ability to smoke when and where they wish. But these rules -- legal, physical and social -- can offer tempting lines to cross for young people who tend toward risk-taking behavior.
There's a thrill that comes from breaking rules. Combine that with the natural tendency of many teenagers to push the limits of rules imposed by school, parents and their communities, and it's no wonder that many young people will instinctively push against any limit.
For some young people, smoking provides fertile ground for getting that limit-pushing thrill. Since it's illegal in many countries for minors to purchase tobacco, the process of obtaining, learning to use and eventually smoking tobacco is full of broken rules from the first step. Teens get thrill after thrill from breaking so many rules, enough so that the rush can overcome the sickening effects of those first few cigarettes.
7: Parental Influence
The relationship between parents smoking and their children smoking is blunt: Children of active smokers are more likely to start smoking than children of nonsmokers, or children of parents who quit smoking. According to some studies, a parent's choice to smoke can more than double the odds that the child will smoke [source: Faucher].
Even non smoking parents can act in ways that inadvertently make it easier for their children to start smoking. Studies have found that parents who place few restrictions on...