Local News

Local Teens Speak Candidly About Smoking

Posted April 2, 1998

— Three-thousand children will pick up the smoking habit today alone. Eventually, that habit will snuff out at least a third of them. Our children know smoking is bad, and in some cases, illegal. So why do they keep lighting up?

WRAL talked with ten young smokers Thursday to find out firsthand why more and more are smoking and chewing despite highly publicized efforts to curb tobacco use. The answers really shed light on the reasons it's appealing to teens.

Mike Barker is like thousands of other North Carolina teens. He likes to smoke even though he knows it's bad for his health. He started when he was 13 and couldn't stop.

"I smoked when I was nervous or when I was upset," Barker explains, "and it just over the years, it kind of builded on, and now I buy a carton-- smoke about a carton every two weeks."

Many adults have told Barker about the health dangers, but he says it's his life to live.

Kate Lindsay is also a teen smoker. She believes the anti-tobacco efforts are counter productive when it comes to today's kids: If your parents tell you not to, that influences them more, I think, to do it, than if they didn't say anything. I think more people would stop if nobody said anything about it, and there wasn't a big deal about it. I know at my school, there's a big deal about it, and they have a meeting and all the parents come and talk about it. And I think that just makes them want to do it more.

Human behavior experts say teens' personality traits also play a part in the choice to use tobacco products.

"If they're introverted, if they tend to have the need to prove themselves and so forth-- I think that can influence them with those that do involve themselves with tobacco products," Errol Moultrie explains, "whether it's chewing tobacco or smoking cigarettes."

Bottom line: local behavior specialists and teens agree that the strategies being used now don't work.

One other interesting note-- every teen smoker WRAL talked with, except one, said they either had a mother or father who also smoked.


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