Do ‘risk’ and ‘rebellion’ make smoking more attractive?

Paul Bergen had an interesting post on Smokles the other day.

In it he touched  on the attraction of risk.

While I am no expert in the subject, it brought back to me rapidly receding days of childhood.

What was the attraction of smoking?  A huge part of it was that it was illegal (for our age group), it was bad, it was risky, it was rebellion. For the same reasons we bought dope off dodgy dealers and felt bad and brave.

So, if you don’t demonise something, does it become less attractive?

Cannabis Use, Legality and Use

Let’s take a look at a different example – cannabis.

In the US, cannabis is mostly illegal. Over in Holland, cannabis use has been tolerated for decade.

So Holland has the higher use of cannabis, right?

Actually no.

Data shows that cannabis use at all ages is much lower in Holland, and Dutch teenagers report lower use and availability of cannabis than US teens.

The Growing Attraction Of Risk To Teenagers

Got a tween in your house?

Do you know that their risk of dying DOUBLES when they become a teenager?

The teenage brain is simply wired differently at that age.

Scientists speculate that teenager’s increased tolerance for risks is due to the need to leave the nest. After all, it’s only in recent times that children stayed at home much past the age of 13. The increased risks children take could part of the push to leave the safety of the family home (or fire!) and go out to make their own way in the world.

Smoking Warnings and Effect on Brain

Another issue to take into consideration is the effect of anti-smoking warnings on the brain.

Again, you’d expect anti-smoking warnings to put off people from smoking.

But that’s assuming we all work logically.

In fact, one study by Martin Linstrom which looked at smoker’s brain waves found that anti-smoking warnings stimulated the same part of the brain that triggers nicotine craving.

When we surveyed our readers, they were more mixed – but still 19% felt that anti-smoking ads increased the desire to smoke.

Graph: How anti-smoking ads affect the desire to smoke.


Which makes me wonder, how attractive will a ‘safe’ alternative be to children looking to rebel?

This attraction of e-cigarettes to children, of course, has become a key argument of the ‘anti-smoking’ lobby as the rest of the case has gradually been brought crashing down to the ground.

But I wonder if the electronic cigarette might be a lot more attractive to children if it was made out to be as bad and dangerous and Banzhaf, ASH and the rest of the anti-vaping crowd would like it to be!

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