Although it is illegal for youth and children to purchase cigarettes, the rules about whether or not they can use them are quite fuzzy. Even at my school, the principal’s only requirement is that students only smoke in designated areas. Everybody knows that kids are doing it and that it will have heavy impact on them in the future, yet what can someone do if they witness a youth smoking what they cannot legally obtain? If the items are contraband, what is being done to ensure that youth cannot use them?
There should be a clear and effective legal process that allows adults to nip the problem of childhood addiction in the bud. If a teacher, or any other adult, sees a minor smoking, they should be able to report it and expect action to be taken against that youth. Whether this is on school property or off, teachers and other school officials should have the power to demand that the children stop smoking. It is much easier for them to quit when they are young than when they are well into their adult years.
While it is being maintained that cigarette smoking is decreasing in social acceptance, it really depends on what social group you are considering. For youth who may not be very concerned with what life is going to be like when they are “old”, smoking still has a strong social appeal. Since smokers are being segregated to “designated areas”, these are in themselves becoming social hubs, and truly the only thing it takes to be part of that group is a light. The risk and the rebellion associated with not being “allowed” to smoke only increases its appeal to some people. Furthermore, since youth are often being supported by older people who get the cigarettes for them, they may also be fulfilling their more secret desire to be respected and seen as equal by these elders.
What makes the issue even more tricky is the fact that youth are falling more and more into anarchic reasoning, whereby they are taught to “do what they want as long as they don’t hurt others,” to “have your own opinion and let others have theirs”. Some attempts to persuade youth to consider the dangers of smoking are met with such comments, and smokers firmly believe it is their business. The “smoker’s rights” movement is certainly not helping in this respect.
The money that this would save in terms of healthcare costs for older adults who started smoking at a young age could be used to further reduce smoking rates in the population. From 2010 youth smoking rates are reportedly decreasing, but this cannot be an excuse to decrease efforts in this area. Youth want the opportunity to be treated like adults, yet they are allowed to continue practices that endanger their lives and their education. Passivity is what is killing smokers more than any chemical that cigarettes contain.
CALM Module I
Assignment 1B, section 2, question 8