Teens react to shocking smoking statistics

Long-term trends in the prevalence of current smokers

Smoking chart

Smoking cigarettes was first monitored in 1965. Since then, teen smoking has been declining at a steady pace, reaching its ultimate
low in 2007.

Source: Health Canada/Canadian Lung Association

Health Canada reports that teens are turning away from cigarettes, with the lowest percentage of teen smokers since 1965 occurring last year.

Many local teens are surprised by these findings.

Older teens believe younger students are smoking now more than ever, and are turning to other, more illegal substances since the government has enforced laws against teen smoking.

“I’d say that [teens] think [smoking] is the cool thing to do, and then in some cases it’s just something to do,” said Cinzia Pistritto, a Grade 12 student at Pope John Paul II Catholic Secondary School.

“That’s kind of why I started smoking — I didn’t have anything to do.”

Pistritto, a former teen smoker, has noticed the growing number of students heading to the “smoker’s corner” during lunchtime.

Until recently, Pistritto was smoking five cigarettes a day. She had started smoking after having one “drag” off of a friend three years ago.

“In your mind, it’s like, ‘Oh if I could have a cigarette right now, things would be so fantastic,’ and then when you have it, it sucked, and it wasn’t even worth it.”

Pistritto knows from first-hand experience how alluring a cigarette can be to a teenager. She doesn’t believe that teens are smoking less, and finds Health Canada’s reports to be shocking.

Other teens share this opinion.

“I think a lot of [teens started smoking] when we were younger and before we actually started to mature and learn, ” said Brittney Gruning, a Grade 12 student at Sir Oliver Mowat Collegiate Institute.

“They thought it was cool, and fell into the peer pressure.”

Gruning and her peers feel that teens start smoking at a younger age. As teens get older, they keep the habit as a way to deal with stress.

While the government has restricted teens from legally purchasing cigarettes, there are still a variety of illegal drugs that can easily get their hands on.

“Cigarettes are harder to get, in terms of if you compare it to weed.” Pistritto said.

“If I wanted to get some weed right now, I’m sure I could, whereas if I wanted to get a cigarette, I would have to go to the store where I would get IDed, which would result in me not getting the cigarettes.”

Weed, or cannabis, is one of many illegal dugs in Canada. Since these drugs are illegal to everyone, there is no age restriction for teens who wish to be exposed to the drug.

Government advertisements may show the harmful effects of cigarettes, but there are no ads that tell teens how harmful weed and other drugs can be to the human body.

“Funny enough, [weed] doesn’t lead to chronic cancer, ” said Jimmy Xu, a student at Mowat.

Xu was shocked to learn that weed is proven to be more harmful than cigarettes.

Pistritto on the other hand, knows better. She believes teens are under the false impression that weed is more “herbal” and turn towards this drug more frequently today.

Whether it be weed or cigarettes, Pistritto believes that the government and adults can’t stop teens from smoking, and will never be able to.

“I think that you need to find a personal motivation to stop smoking, ” Pistritto said, “You can do things for other people, but in the end it’s what really affects you. “