Remember when you took your first cigarette drag? Did it make you feel all badass and shit in between hacking your lungs out while trying to convince your friends that it tasted good? And did it take you years to finally quit?
While teen smoking is nothing new, one reason why it's not going away is that these kids can't seem to relate all the health hazard messages on cigarette boxes and PSAs since they're mostly targeted towards adults. As Tina Rosenberg from the New York Times reports, "it may be even more important to attack teenage smoking than obesity."
So what is it about smoking that draws in these teens?
Any teenager could explain why. For them, a cigarette is not a delivery system for nicotine. It's a delivery system for rebellion. Kids take up smoking to be cool, to impress their friends with their recklessness and defiance of adults. Teenagers don't care about lung cancer - they're immortal. They know that smoking is dangerous. In fact, they overestimate the chances of getting lung cancer. Danger is part of a cigarette's appeal.
One way to help reduce this trend is to make cigarettes less cool. And since teens are into brands and branding, why not make all the packs look the same? A study highlighted in the article shows that replacing the boxes can make a big difference:
"Teenagers see plain packs as less attractive, and believe their cigarettes don't taste as good. Teenagers label smokers of plain-pack cigarettes as less stylish and social."
Plain packaging also reduces a cigarette's value as a social cue with peers. Every time a teenage girl takes a pack out of her purse to get a cigarette, she is flashing all those brand associations at her friends as well. In short, plain packaging erases the cool factor that comes from smoking a specific brand.
And if that doesn't work on your kids, you can try the age-old tradition of asking them to smoke a whole carton the spot in front of you before telling them if they still feel the same way about smoking.