Tobacco Addiction: Peer Pressure or Failure of Volition?

Posted on August 24, 2011 in Society

By Pratham Karkare:

(The following entry is written in first person to respect the demands of the person concerned. Also the paragraphs in italics form the actual case as reported by the concerned person, while the non-italic paragraphs involves analysis of the case.)

Let me begin by making it clear what this article is all about. It is not about the harmful effects of smoking, nor is it about what one should do to cure the addiction. This article takes into account a common cause of smoking, peer pressure, and raises ideas about it being a part of our pop-culture.

“It’s a fairly interesting world we live in. What may seem relevant or cool at one point in life may ultimately turn out to be the biggest mistake that one has ever made. For me college-life was a life in fast lane. It was that time of my life where I got introduced to a lot of new ideas, many of which form a part of our pop-culture. It was also the time of my life, when I got addicted to smoking.”

It wouldn’t really be an overstatement to make, if it is said that smoking is slowly becoming a part of our Indian society. Still widely viewed as an anti-social doing, more and more people, especially college students, can be seen at roadside stands smoking a fag. Though being in a direct conflict with our traditions, the idea of smoking can be viewed by one as being some sort of an existential living.

“I always used to think of myself as a person who wouldn’t be influenced by all the bad ideas existing in the society. However, certain things are easier said than done. Smoking was a vice and I knew that its addiction was pretty common. However, on being offered a drag by a certain close friend of mine, I couldn’t resist myself and the impuissance of being a human got the better of my volition. Among my peer group, smoking was considered hip and any smoker with a devil-may-care attitude was nothing less than a rock star. In a way, it was all very convincing, all very satisfying. Soon, the habit of taking a puff once in a while gave way to smoking one  cigarette in two three days. But this was just the beginning. Pretty soon, I was smoking more than one cigarette in a day and the number went on increasing.”

Peer pressure is a very common cause of tobacco addiction. During our college/high school times our friends are the most influential people in our lives as they belong to the same age group and are going through the same changes in life. Thus, it is not very difficult to see how the habit of smoking can pass from one person in a particular group to another. Sixty-two percent of the students who smoke consider themselves “social smokers”. Statistics, based on a research conducted by Brown University in US, show that teens who had at least two friends who smoked were more than six times as likely to become intermittent smokers than those whose friends didn’t smoke. These teens were also 10 times more likely than others to go from intermittent smoking to daily smoking.

“I have tried to quit smoking. But ask any smoker, it’s a very tough thing to do, especially if smoking is a part of your college/society culture. Most of the people in a friend circle would have accepted the fact, that quitting is beyond them and that doesn’t help!!!  In retrospect, it seems that if I had not taken the first puff, maybe I would have been better off. So does that mean I can blame my friends? Deep down I believe that it was me who succumbed to smoking. I liked it at some point, decided to give it a shot, was encouraged by my friends, and then somehow I just didn’t realize when I crossed the line “

Eighty-seven percent of the smokers have tried to quit and only twenty-three percent have been successful. The thing about playing the blame-game is that it is actually very convenient. Though, however clichéd it may sound, it is not wrong to say that the real power to change lies strictly inside you. The harmful effects of smoking are very well understood by smokers and non-smokers alike. So, where does the difference lie? It is understood from the case presented that first puff is the easiest to resist.

To curb this problem, a complete unified approach is necessary. All college buildings should go completely smoke-free, banning smoking from dorm rooms and common living areas. One should value ones life and realize that these small time pleasures will have long term bad effects. Who doesn’t want to be a rock star? They are awesome, talented and loved by all, but smoking is no talent. It’s a waste of ones valuable assets- life and money. It’s a vice condemned by one and all, even those who are addicted to it. So, next time if someone offers you a cigarette, turn your head in other direction, take in some fresh air and remember — your world is a beautiful world as it is.