Our generation is a paradox. On the one hand, there are health freaks who are absolutely obsessed with size-zero figures, power yoga, exercise and Atkin’s diet, and on the other hand, this very generation consists of the obese, the addicts and the alcoholics. We are the ‘sex, lies and videotape’ generation that is thoroughly involved in drugs, alcohol and smoking but we are also extremely interested in looking good. For our generation, everything is about maintaining an image.
Several believe that it is because of the society that our generation believes that putting up an appearance is a good thing. It is because the society assigns particular meanings to certain things that the youth comes to believe in such stereotypes. In these paradoxical times, one habit that has caught on the youth like plague is smoking.
While our older generations were admonished when they took up smoking, our generation takes pride in making smoke circles in the air. Even the reverse psychology mechanism of parents making their children take the first puff of cigarette in front of them has proved to be futile. In fact, our generation has taken this as an encouragement.
For this generation, it seems that smoking is not merely a habit, it is a lifestyle. Firstly, for an average teenager, smoking means rebellion. It is an escape from parents, school, peer pressure and the like. Smoking for a teenager would mean breaking rules. It is a symbol of individualism. What for a teenager might mean rebellion, for an adult becomes power.
For young adults, smoking is about being powerful. Smoking is associated with the psychological trait of being an extrovert. Another psychological explanation of smoking is that it is a form of operant conditioning – in the early stages, smoking provides pleasure which is a positive reinforcement for the brain. Several societal factors also suggest that smoking is considered ‘cool’ and the ‘in thing to do’.
However, smoking is injurious to health – whether it is casual or chain smoking. Cigarettes are the major reason for such high incidence of lung cancer in the youth. It is often said that hundred years ago lung cancer was so uncommon that if a doctor found a case, he would probably report it in a medical journal. However times have changed. We might tell each other that there is a very large amount of carcinogenic gases in the atmosphere because of harmful substances from factories, etc. but we often forget the amount of damage that a single cigarette can do to a person and to the entire atmosphere.
Moreover, various others parts of the body may also suffer from carcinogenic effects due to cigarette smoking. Besides cancer, smoking also has an irreversible damage on the circulatory system – nicotine raises blood pressure and heart rate, constricts the arteries and causes the artery walls to collapse. Pulmonary damage, besides lung cancer, due to smoking is also not uncommon. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are diseases that afflict active smokers and asthma is very commonplace for passive smokers. Brain damage may also occur due to excessive smoking.
Taking up a cigarette due to rebellion or to appear ‘cool’ is very easy. Very often we take refuge in a cigarette or in alcohol. However, it is nothing but cowardice, and cowardice of a dangerous kind. It is not a mystery that smoking kills. When you’re down and depressed, it is always easy to go buy a pack of cigarettes but you can never go and buy health. So, it is important for the smokers out there to stop smoking, and give life a chance.
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