Teenagers views on smoking and the health risks

23 Mar 2015

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Smoking amongst teenagers has become a growing problem for the UK and many other parts of the world. This common behaviour amongst teenagers is one of many that pose a risk to their health. At the age of 11 years, 5 to 6 % of secondary school boys admitted to smoking frequently and one in four boys become regular smokers by the time they reached 16 years of age. (Livingstone 1983). Teenagers often engage with a cigarette from early on in their lives and from then on make a decision whether to continue smoking or not. However, each individual teenager who does smoke have their own particular reasons as to why there smoke as there are many factors including social, environmental and parental factors r teenage smoking. Little attention has been paid to trying to prevent teenagers from smoking rather than trying to get teenagers who already smoke to quit.

The purpose of this research is to find out why teenagers smoke and what factors contribute to a teenager to start smoking. The purpose of researching into teenager's knowledge and views on smoking is because smoking from an early age is a problem in the western world because cigarettes as well as many other drugs contain harmful substances in them such as poisonous gases and are specifically known and has been scientifically proven to cause death from cancer, heart and respiratory problems as well as many other diseases. Despite all of the awareness of the dangers of smoking from television and other media campaigns, teenagers continue to smoke either because of their attitude they have towards smoking or their personal health beliefs and the lack of willingness to receive help to quit smoking cigarettes. (Livingstone 1983)

Literature review

There has been numerous researches regarding teenage smoking and the knowledge of the health risks associated with smoking cigarettes and the reasons why teenagers choose to smoke. Generally, teenagers begin to smoke because they want to fit into a particular group. Lloyd (1998). For example, if teenagers have friends who smoke, they are more likely to take up and try smoking because they want to stay within their group and be accepted by other members which can also be known as 'peer pressure', whereby members of a particular group have a very strong influence over another person in what they do and how they behave. Many adolescents also care about the image they portray to others. Smoking carries an image to teenagers from what they see from the media such as television, the internet, newspapers and magazines and often mimics other celebrities or people who they feel are role models to them. Margaret o' Hyde et al (2005) suggested that teenagers smoke for a variety of reasons. Teenager's body weight, for example, looking slim, which is related to their image, is a key factor in teenager's who start smoking. Another reason as to why teenagers smoke could be to do with rebellion against their parents. During adolescence, parents tend to go through stages with their children in which they may not be happy with, for example, rules and regulations. Teenagers may smoke just to annoy or frustrate their parents. Teenagers are in the process of seeking independence and experimenting with new things e.g. smoking. Another reason as to why teenagers start to smoke could be due to the fact that they may see adults smoking and think that this is the norm to behave in this way and therefore continue throughout their adult life. For example, they may see their parents smoking as a child growing up.

Teenage smoking can start at an early age within the family home. In some cases, when there are physical, social, emotional or psychological abuse between the teenagers parents, this could contribute to a significant reason as to why teenagers may start to smoke. These teenagers may feel a lot more stressed within the family home. They may also have low self-esteem and so turn to cigarette smoking to cope with their family issues at home. For girls, smoking might make them feel more attractable to the opposite sex and cool, and for boys, they may smoke to make themselves feel more masculine as they buy into the advertising they see from the media about the gender stereotypes of how to behave.

Tobacco use within teenagers is a major cause for serious health problems including heart disease, lung, and throat and mouth cancer as teenagers develop into adults. It can be shown that there are many factors that influence a teenager's decision to smoke. Plant (1992) suggested that there are environmental, biological and constitutional theories related to teenage smoking. Firstly, the biological and constitutional theories relate to whether or not the teenager has genetically inherited it from their parents which can also decide whether the teenager becomes dependent upon smoking tobacco. Also plant (1992) argues that many young adults may be more susceptible to develop nicotine dependence, cancer or heart or lung disease than others. Therefore, this theory is suggesting that certain individuals may be fond of tobacco, which is a stimulant drug because of biological and psychological characteristics.

There are environmental factors that can contribute to a teenager decision to smoke. In some cases people who are socially disadvantaged or who are in poverty tend to smoke tobacco more greatly. However, some people with a higher social status also tend to smoke but have had a good upbringing.

Drug knowledge is an important theme in establishing why certain teenagers smoke and others do not smoke. Many teenagers are unaware of the health risks associated with smoking which may be one of the reasons as to why they have continued to smoke. Leech and Jordan (1967) argued that many teenagers star smoking because of being ignorant about how smoking will affect them or how harmful it can be to their body. They also argued that teenagers are curious to find out what smoking feels like. This could mean that if teenagers knew fully about the dangers of smoking, then this could be a deterrent to prevent them from starting smoking. However, it can be argued that teenagers have been given health education in schools about the health risks of smoking, so Leech and Jordan (1967) may not be looking at a representative population of teenagers. Teenagers may be given adequate facts and information about smoking hazards, however, they choose to ignore this information and view smoking as a positive thing to do (Livingstone 1983). There has been evidence to suggest that teenagers are fully aware of the dangers of smoking. A study in the north east and Cumbria showed that teenagers that smoked frequently had regular coughs and eighty one per cent of the teenagers were aware that if they smoked then they are likely to have a persistent cough.


My aims to track teenagers knowledge to smoking and the health risks associated with smoking . Also i would like to study teenager's attitudes and beliefs about smoking, whether they are aware that smoking causes potential health risks as well as campaigns to stop people from smoking. The reasons behind these aim is to focus on dependency, giving up smoking, teenagers awareness of smoking related articles, promotions and advertising in the media. I have chose this subject area smoking amongst teenagers has become increasingly popular and i would like to try and find ways to make teenagers that do smoke more aware of the health risks and also what organisations e.g. local health authorities and schools can do to reduce the level of teenage smokers

Methods and design

The study is going to be set within a secondary school in the local area of Wimbledon. The devised study was to address the issue of smoking in local young adults and to highlight the importance of health authorities, the government, schools and parents to be aware of this issue. The design is to seek insights into the attitudes and beliefs by examining the knowledge and views that the teenagers aged 13-16 years of age have about smoking.

The sample size will be 10 teenagers in order to make comparisons between each of the teenagers that will take part in the study, which could provide significant information to develop an effective strategy to decrease the prevalence of smoking within teenagers. I will be using questionnaires and semi-structured interviews to carry out this research. For the semi-structured interviews I will record my findings on to a tape recorder by using a dictaphone which should take between 20 to 30 minutes to carry out

I should first carry out a pilot study to test whether or not the interviews are going to be effective enough to carry out the research. I will also send a letter to the school that I wish to carry out the research in order to obtain permission from the head teacher.

. The interviews will cover significant themes including the participants' family background, attitude towards smoking and other important key themes. This will be done to address in great depth why teenagers choose to start smoking and the extent of their knowledge of the health risks related to smoking tobacco in order for me to obtain a broader knowledge and understanding of this issue.


The possible results that I intend to find within this research is that teenagers may smoke because of peer pressure by friends from school and outside of school and discovering and exploring new images and identities could be a possible explanation for teen smoking. Teen smoking may be a form of leisure for many teenagers and so that they are able to conform to subcultures in society. It is also very likely that teenagers may smoke due to their own attitudes and health beliefs. For example, teenagers may know the health risks of smoking but choose to ignore them and the consequences of smoking. I may also find that teenagers may smoke cigarettes to relieve the tension and frustration that they may have over exams as it may relax and gives a sense of pleasure.

Risk Assessment

There is a risk for the parents of teenagers and the teachers involved to know that the interview questions and research are going to be the same that is outlined in the debrief and in the letter of consent. Also i will need a teacher to supervise me to make sure that i am safe from children and for them to be a witness during the interview process. The ethical issues involved are Consent to participate was sought from teenagers themselves on an ongoing basis and earlier meetings will be made to explain the research and to distribute written information sheets that will be given out.

I may find that truancy of teenagers may become a problem if I have planned to conduct research with that particular teenager. One way to overcome this problem is that I could leave this interview until the very end of my research and come back to it when the interviewee returns.

Confidentiality will be an ethical issue to address; I will make sure that the teenagers names are not revealed throughout the study. In order to make sure that what I produce from my research is acceptable for the interviewees, they will have the right to comment on any part of my research that they are not happy with.

I must ensure that I have taking into account all of my interviewees psychological, and emotional well being, values, beliefs and views. I must recognise that as a researcher undertaking interviews that we live in a multi-cultural society and people come from various backgrounds and are of different ages and genders.

Anonymity is a serious ethical issue which should be considered which ensures the interviewees identity is not known. If records of my research are still kept, then I will need to make sure that these will be safe and still kept anonymous.

My participants are entitled to privacy. If a situation in the interview becomes distressing, uncomfortable or embarrassing, the participant has the right to withdraw from the research or withdraw anything that they feel is sensitive to them. I will need to also carry out a debrief with my participants which will show the participant the aims and the purpose of conducting this research. This is to avoid any deception that they may have about my research. I will also need to ensure that my participants are safe from any physical discomfort, stress during my research and they should be protected from this at all times and the right to withdraw if they do feel stressed.

(2100 words)

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