So yet another new study has just come out reminding us of the damage cigarette smoking can do to the human body.
One has to wonder: is there any possible Horrible Consequence that might make a difference to a young person deciding whether or not to smoke?
Typical Teenager or College Student has already heard thousands of times that smoking is addictive, that it can cause heart disease and cancer and emphysema, and will eventually choke the life out anyone who chooses to take it up. Fortunately, that does stop a lot of kids. But plenty of others go right ahead.
This recent headline might be slightly more helpful: "Smokers' Skin Is More Wrinkled, Even In Areas Shielded From Sunlight." But it would probably need to say "Smoking will Cause Huge Green Volcanic Pimples To Appear on Your Face Permanently--Starting Tomorrow Morning," to even register.
However, the study did at least put the focus where it should be when addressing the important factors a young person weighs when deciding whether to smoke: how will it make me look?
Anti-smoking campaigns can't change the fact that smoking will make a young person cool. Only young people themselves can change that, and why would they?
It's the easiest possible way for teens to rebel. Smoking won't get you thrown in jail, pregnant, exposed to AIDS, or so wrecked you can't remember where you live. You don't even have to visit a "bad" neighborhood to score. Plus it's a much more convincing "f**ck-it-all" statement than a simple tattoo or nose piercing.
And it works! You can indeed "borrow" coolness you don't actually own yourself. If you are of tender years, your social status will be likely elevated if you take up this toxic but glamorous habit. You will look more suave, more adventurous, more "up for anything." At least through much of your twenties.
But sorry, it's all downhill after that. No one looks at 36-year-old Brian from Accounting and thinks, wow, he's so sophisticated--he smokes! Just keep watch at any downtown office building where actual grown-ups work. Wait for break time. See those people huddled there in the doorways in the the snow, the hundred degree heat? Are those the "cool" people?
Oddly enough, there seems to be almost an inverse relationship between hipness and these folks. There's an air of depression and defeat about these gatherings. No one would mistake this for the "in crowd."
What's truly amazing is the number of young adults who still make this clueless bargain--who don't even need to! (Some of us geeky types who took a few experimental puffs back in the day, but decided the price was too high--we could have really used the help). Evening strolls through the trendy neighborhoods of Washington D.C. recently revealed hordes of twenty-somethings who looked rich, attractive, well-dressed, pampered, and ready to step into privileged lives--with cigarettes dangling from their lips.
Perhaps it was the air of smugness about some of them that brought on an emotion that wasn't, well, pity. You could almost hear them: "Can't you see how awesome we look? Don't you wish you were us?"
Yep, dude, sure enough--you do look awesome. But no. Absolutely no wish to be you.
And speaking of problematic addictive behaviors, some of them are more serious than smoking. There is help out there! One option is Addiction Interventionists.