It’s likely that in today’s media you’ve seen some shocking anti-smoking ads. Many commercials feature former smokers offering advice on how to deal with major physical issues like losing limbs or lungs, which can happen after years of smoking. It would seem that these commercials succeed at their intended purpose of scaring people away from smoking, but smoking is still a major health issue in the US. While the rates of current smokers have decreased over the past ten years, nearly every 15 out of 100 people still smoke. Tobacco use has a long history in America and many social factors continue to keep this deadly addiction alive.
Many Native American tribes smoked tobacco through pipes for religious ceremonies. Once the creation of the colonies, tobacco quickly became a cash crop. In the 1800’s cigarettes quickly gained popularity and tobacco was secured as an essential part of the US economy (“History of Tobacco”).
Smoking quickly became a social norm in American culture. The United States Army provided service men with free cigarettes during both world wars because so many soldiers smoked and it was used as a way to relax during such stressful times. Meanwhile, tobacco companies targeted the housewives and working women back home (“History of Tobacco”).
One of the major driving forces behind the growing popularity of smoking was Hollywood. Through movies and magazines, cigarettes quickly became a symbol of glamor and sex appeal. Smoking became iconic in classic movies during the 1950’s. For example, the portrait of Audrey Hepburn with a cigarette holder in her hand from the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s has been reproduced thousands of times over the years. The Marlbolo man, known for his masculine and tough image, quickly became the successful advertising icon for Marlbolo Cigarettes. However, several actors who played this role have passed away due to smoking related diseases.
Today, the government and health organizations work to educate a person on the dangers of smoking, however, that wasn’t always the case. The general surgeon warning, stating that cigarettes may be bad for your health, didn’t appear on packages until 1965. Many smokers claim that cigarettes have benefits that help to balance out the extreme health risks. For example, many smokers claim that cigarettes help to alleviate stress, but one study showed that nicotine use actually raises stress levels.
A final factor that increases the likelihood of smoking, is whether or not the individual grew up in a household where his or her parents smoked. Having a parent that smokes, increase the chance of adolescent smoking by 50%. Other factors that play a role include parental control over rules in a household and emotional attachment between the parents and adolescence.
Considering the deep-rooted history of cigarettes, the long-standing influence of media, and personal factors, it’s clear to see why smoking is still an issue in American society. In order to successfully improve this common and life threatening addiction, it’s important to take into consideration all the complex reasons that influence an individual to start smoking. Simply informing the public of the health risks is not enough; cigarettes need to be separated from the social norm that allowed the addictive habit to become such a large part of modern culture.
Becky’s tips [Video file]. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/resources/videos/becky-videos.html#becky
History of tobacco. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://healthliteracy.worlded.org/docs/tobacco/Unit1/2history_of.html
Pilat, K. (n.d.). Hollywood and smoking: a brief history. Retrieved from https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2010/07/the-glitz-the-glamour-the-smoke.html
Parrott, A. C. (1999). Does cigarette smoking cause stress?. American Psychologist, 54(10), 817.
Schwarz, J. (2005, September 28). Children whose parents smoked are twice as likely to begin smoking between ages 13 and 21 as offspring of nonsmokers. Retrieved from http://www.washington.edu/news/2005/09/28/children-whose-parents-smoked-are-twice-as-likely-to-begin-smoking-between-ages-13-and-21-as-offspring-of-nonsmokers/