Ask “Why?” Not “Why Are You?”

You look at smoking as disgusting, right? Something that you would never even think about doing? Well, what if I told you, you’re only seeing the surface of it. Smoking doesn’t have to be seen as bad as you have been taught to see it, and here’s why.

I am currently a freshman in my first quarter attending Western Washington University, and I have seen a majority of students smoking cigarettes. Coming from a sheltered area, where I rarely saw cigarettes, or tobacco products in general, I immediately wondered why the hell young people attending college even consider smoking cigarettes.

Where I’m from smoking cigarettes was practically the eighth deadly sin. I had to take numerous courses during middle school, and high school that were made to only prevent myself, and others, from smoking. They never taught me to look at smoking objectively or to question why people smoke in the first place. Although, it is not bad to want to prevent kids from doing something that harms their body, I just don’t believe brainwashing them into not even questioning the other side is good either.

So before coming to college and growing up in the environment that taught me what I stated earlier, I thought that with all the proven research found in the past couple decades, that smoking would not be as popular as it is. Well, at least for college students. But to my surprise there were a lot more smokers than I imagined there would be. At first, I just looked at them with that ‘grossed out’ face that you make when you see something nasty.

But then I began wondering why?

A survey done at Western was done by John Krieg, Beth Hartsoch, Linda Clark, and Kieran Seaman where they surveyed 408 students about cigarettes. Out of those 408 students, 9% of them smoked cigarettes daily. Although this survey is not a huge sample, comparing it to the findings of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention where they state that 16.7% of people, ages 18–24, currently smoke in the US, they both hint at an underlying factor of why some young adults are smoking. But what could this factor be? Could it possibly be the transition from high school to college?

Going from high school to college is major step in a lot of young adult’s lives and it adds a lot of stressors to an already overwhelming change. A lot of kids are nervous and some move back home after the first couple of months because they get home sick.

So, to deal with these newly fabricated stressors, some students develop coping mechanisms. Among these coping mechanisms can possibly be cigarettes. But out of all coping mechanisms to develop, why smoking, you might ask? Well, there’s two easy answers. Parties and social pressure.

We all know that young people don’t make the best decisions in the world, especially when partying is involved. So, giving the benefit of the doubt, some young adults develop smoking as a coping mechanism because they get involved with a certain crowd that influence them through social pressure. This ‘experimental’ behavior can quickly turn into a habit that develops into a coping method for students when they feel stressed. But smoking is universally seen as a nasty addiction, so why do people even consider smoking as a coping mechanism?

Explained by David Long, the relation between stress and smoking cigarettes leads to a repeating pattern of stress. He states, smokers experience a period of heightened stress between cigarettes and smoking briefly restores the stress level back to normal. However, they will need another cigarette to prevent the symptoms of a high stress level from developing again.

So, in turn, cigarettes are only a temporary stress reliever that evolves into a pattern. So, in theory young adults that smoke really don’t deserve all the negative notions that are associated with smoking. With all this in mind, maybe immediately thinking “that’s disgusting!” when someone is smoking is not the best reaction to have. Considering all the possibilities as to why they smoke, whether being newly created stress and social pressures, or older stressors, everyone has a back story to something. So perhaps think, “why do they smoke?” instead of “why are they smoking?”

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