Harvard College Health Advocacy Program

Certain Ashes are No Longer Cool

By on January 12, 2014

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the surgeon general’s declaration that smoking kills.  Back then, smoking was still in vogue. But the message has gradually begun to leave its dark mark, and over 8 million people can breathe easy thanks to government intervention in anti-smoking efforts (warning labels, public service announcements and the likes).

So why does the trend even exist anymore if people know it kills?  Yes, what an idealistic question, and who better to ask it than the member of a health advocacy group?  The answer is not as complicated as you might think.  “Smokers typically start smoking as adolescents or young adults, with initial smoking occurring in social situations,” says Sherry McKee, director of the Yale Behavioral Pharmacology Lab.   And so it seems that smoking is just another one of those habits that young people can pick up form the people they hang out with.

Knowing this, is it possible to shake off the habit?  It’s difficult, according to director of the Duke Center for Smoking Cessation,  Jed Rose.  “Ultimately, [those who start smoking young] will lose their capacity to make a free choice to smoke,” says Rose.  The gist?   Kids start young, picking up cigs for the same reason a fashionista decks herself in heals and makeup.  But unlike Prada and the right shade of Estée Lauder, the “death sticks” cannot be easily shaken off.  “Then 30 years later, that’s when we typically see them in our program desperately trying to quit, because now they can’t go a single day without (a cigarette),” says Rose.

Lucky for people in today’s generation, there are not only plenty of resources to help a smoker quit, but there is also a general social sense that smoking is bad.  In the U.S. at least, smoking is no longer in vogue.  In part, we have smoking bans, warning labels, and that scary PSA of the woman with a hole in her throat, to thank.

Check the CNN article that inspired this post.

–posted by Gita Bhattacharya

Harvard College Health Advocacy Program's mission is to connect Boston youth and Harvard undergraduates with health education and wellness resources so that they may actively pursue a healthy lifestyle. To achieve this goal off-campus, HAP's mentors work with elementary, middle, and high school students to teach hands-on health curricula covering topics such as nutrition, exercise, food advertising, and music and noise induced hearing damage in youth. On-campus, HAP promotes our mission by hosting health-themed study breaks, group exercise socials, and resourceful cooking seminars. We believe bringing together undergraduates passionate about healthy living will enable us to improve the health of the communities in which we live.

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