Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Research Paper on Smoking

Effects of Smoking Research Paper

The Psychological Effects of Smoking
Smoking is one of the most widespread bad habits all over the world. In its turn, tobacco industry is one of the most profitable businesses nowadays. Millions of people start smoking, and then decide they want to get rid of this habit, thus the health industry products for smokers who try to quit their habit are also quite attractive to invest in. Nowadays everyone knows smoking is hazardous for the health of the smoker, and of people who inhale cigarette smoke; it leads to lung cancer, cardiovascular diseases, influences on prenatal development, and causes many other unpleasant and dangerous effects.

Nevertheless, the profits of tobacco sellers do not seem to get smaller; moreover, tobacco sale levels still continue to grow in some countries. This paper is targeted on analyzing the psychological effects of smoking in order to find out why individuals begin and continue to smoke while they know this habit is dangerous for their health, and for well-being of people who surround them.


The National Center of Health Statistics (2007) indicates that throughout past fifty years the percentage of smokers in the U.S has been decreasing gradually. In 1965 41,9% of Americans confessed they smoked, in 1985 the percentage was 29,9, and in 2006 only 20,8% U.S citizens were smoking. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics says that still nearly one in every five deaths in the United States is a result of smoking, making tobacco use the leading preventable cause of death. According to their data, more than 440,000 deaths in the United States each year are attributable to tobacco use, resulting in more than 6 million years of potential life lost each year. If we look on smoking from this viewpoint the impression is created that smoking is some kind of the nationwide suicide, taking thousands of lives each year; in addition it inflicts enormous damage to national health industry, as the sums spent by the U.S government each year on dealing with the results of inhaling cigarette smoke, either actively or passively, are devastating.

Whether to smoke, or not, is a matter of personal choice, and prohibiting smoking is the direct infringement of the freedoms guaranteed to the U.S citizens by the Bill of Rights and Constitution. Most of the smokers in our country know the consequences their bad habit leads to, they are reminded about the increasing threaten of lung cancer, heart diseases etc almost every day. Thus they are able to make informed choices about their health, and the government doesn’t have a right to prohibit them to act according to their decision.

Another point of concern associated with ban on smoking is the employment of people, who work in the tobacco industry nowadays. According to the data, provided by the World bank in their study Understand and Evaluate the Impact of Tobacco Control Policies on Employment, the number of people, directly employed in this industry is about 65-68 thousand. Direct employment numbers don’t include people who earn their living by selling tobacco products. The stricter are the government policies on smoking, the more unemployment they create. In addition, in case the U.S government will decide to ban smoking, the American economy may become unstable for some time, as tobacco production is a quite important sector.

Literature review
Statistics provided by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also states that approximately 80 percent of adult smokers began smoking before age 18, and 70% of them state they would never began smoking. Thus it is obvious that people mostly start smoking in an early age. Scientists conducted numerous researches to find out the reasons of this phenomenon. For example in 1995, Abernathy and Massad researched the interdependence between self esteem and smoking among youngsters. Their target group was children and teenagers from ten to fifteen years old. Researchers conducted four stages of surveying, one in sixth grade of the Calgary Catholic or Board of Education schools, which included 190 schools, one in seventh grade, and then in eighth and ninth grades subsequently. They surveyed children for their levels of self-esteem and cigarette use; the surveys were anonymous. The results were ambiguous – as long as no consisted pattern was found between the self-esteem of boys and subsequent smoking, among girls a strong association was found between their self esteem in grade sixth and smoking in later years. “For a female with low self-esteem in sixth grade, the odds of smoking in any given year from grades 6-9 is between 2.5 to 3.5 times greater than if she had high self-esteem in grade 6”, Abernathy and Massad state. Their research revealed that females are more vulnerable towards the stereotypes concerning smoking that exist in contemporary society, and smoking is one of the ways to conquer low self-esteem for them.

In the same time the study by Larson et al (2007), showed that smoking frequency in their research was similar among males and females, and no significant differences in smoking frequency were observed according to weight status based on BMI. These scientists researched the relation of diet and physical activity patterns towards cigarette smoking. According to their research smoking was associated with grade level, race and ethnicity, and with low-middle and middle SES but not with sex or weight status. They found that children who smoked tended to eat less healthy food and exercised less than their non-smoking coevals. Researchers detected the relation between regular smoking and irregular meal patterns at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They noted that irregular meals let to poor intake of key vitamins and microelements and increased sugar consumption, and provoked adolescents to consume fast food frequently.

Larson et al also found out that frequency of smoking was not related to the amount of time adolescents spent watching TV, albeit they hypothesized that more frequent smoking would be directly related to time spent watching television and videos, as use of these media may be related to smoking initiation.

On the contrary Gidwani et al (2002) who researched the dependency between television viewing and smoking among adolescents found out that the relationship existed, and it was a strong one. According to their findings “youth who watched >5 of television per day were 5.99 times more likely to initiate smoking behaviors than those youth who watched 0–2 hours per day. Similarly, youth who watched >4 to 5 hours per day were 5.24 times more likely to initiate smoking than youth who watched 0–2 hours”. The researchers concluded that the rise in number of smoking adolescents was caused by numerous images of smoking people in movies, TV shows, music videos and sporting events, where smoking was associated with being popular, being a part of the group of beautiful and successful people, accepted by their surroundings. Children and teenagers who watched these programs subconsciously associated these traits with being a smoker, and thus bought their first pack of cigarettes.

One of the widespread persuasions about smoking is that it reduces the levels of stress. The review conducted by Parrott (1999) proves this persuasion is erroneous. According to his findings the stress levels of adult smokers are slightly higher than those of nonsmokers, while adolescents who smoke tend to have stress levels much higher than that of their non-smoking coevals. In his research Parrot cites Ikard, Green, and Horn (1969), who found out that “80% of smokers agreed with statements indicting that cigarette smoking was "relaxing" or "pleasurable." In questionnaire surveys, most smokers respond positively to statements such as "Smoking relaxes me when I am upset or nervous," "Smoking calms me down," and "I am not contented for long unless I am smoking a cigarette". In the same time their research displayed that people who smoked felt irritated, angry and vulnerable when they could not have a cigarette for some time. Thus the researchers developed a hypothesis that explained the fact that smokers felt relaxed and less stressed, which was that smoking just helped to relieve the stress caused by not smoking, to get rid of the irritation caused by the absence of the doze of nicotine a smoker had got used to inhaling.

Abernathy and Massad found out that the dependency existed between the level of self esteem and subsequent smoking in women. Thus the conclusion may be that for females being a smoker is a characteristic trait of successful person. Moreover, it is obvious that the girls were more vulnerable towards tobacco advertizing targeted on youngsters. One of the explanations for this phenomenon may be that many females share the commonly held persuasion that smoking provokes weight loss, while quitting smoking makes one gain weight.

Researchers prove that women are strongly affected by the images they see on media, especially when they concern their weight. The research in 2001 by Vartanian et al showed that it was the influence of the media that was the most significant predictor of overall body satisfaction among females who were getting college education. In addition the research showed that the media also impacts overall body dissatisfaction among men, though less than among females. The authors concluded that the influence of media on forming of the body image is growing both among men and women. In the same time, Green and Pritchard (2003) showed that while media influences had significant impact on female's apprehension of their looks, men's body image wasn't formed by TV. Thus we can explain the results Abernathy and Massad got in their study by assuming that women, affected by TV images of “ideal bodies” and believing that smoking allows one to lose excess weight, were more likely to start smoking than males whose self esteem was not affected by media display of body images.

Larson et al (2007) found a connection between race, grade, levels of SES and smoking. Their study showed that teenagers who had low and middle SES were more likely to start smoking than the kids whose SES were high. This phenomenon can be explained by the assumption that for many kids smoking is a form of protest against being ideal, satisfying all the requirements of their parents, teachers and surroundings. Being a smoker mean “being bad” for them, and kids who are “bad” are not obliged to try hard to achieve high results. Thus the assumption can be made that smoking may be a way to get rid of the responsibility to be “good”, to refuse to live up to expectations the adolescent’s parents, school and surroundings have of her.

Another assumption that can be made basing on Larson’s team findings is that smoking is one of the instruments teenagers can use to control their body. It is a proven fact that the desire to gain control over an important aspect of one’s life is one of the main causes of Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa in teenagers. Adolescents have lots of aspects of their lives controlled by parents, teachers or friends, and harming one’s body by overfeeding it, or letting it starve is their way to take control at least somewhere. If such a need exist cigarettes may become this “aspect of control”. Lots of parents try to stop their kids smoking. Some try to persuade their sons and daughters smoking is hazardous for health and social interactions; others just forbid their kid to smoke. But smoking is quite a tricky thing to control. It is almost impossible to ban person from smoking if she does not want to quit it, even when the smoker is in her teens or tweens.

Parrot in his review of literature concerning the bond between smoking and stress adduces the argument that nicotine relieves only the kind of stress brought by the absence of nicotine. Looking closer at this statement it becomes obvious that this statement is true for heavy smokers, and for people who smoke regularly. They have a clear physiological addiction to nicotine, and abstinence from this substance is stressful for them. But there are people who are referred to as “occasional smokers”, who smoke only when they are in the company of other people who smoke, or who grab a cigarette when they get into stressful situation. They do not have physical addiction to nicotine, thus they are not stressed because of absence of this substance in their organism, thus there is other reason cigarettes help such smokers to cope with stress. It might be just that they are under the influence of stereotype about the stress-relieving effect of nicotine, and their addiction is transformed to a purely psychological one, they need to put a cigarette in the mouth in order to calm down.

When talking about smoking it is necessary to remember that it is more psychological issue than a medical one. It often happens that person remains a smoker even after she has quitted inhaling tobacco fumes. It is important to remember that smoking is a dependency that can be overcome, thus sometimes one may need the help of the psychologist. Nevertheless it is important to remember about the facts set forth in Parrots review: smoking does not make one calmer, it does not reduce the level of stress; smoking a cigarette removes the stress that is caused by not having a chance to smoke.

After reviewing relevant literature we can try to find out the elements that form the psychological dependence from smoking tobacco, and the psychological effects of smoking.

1. Nicotine has a slight arousal effect and some smokers use it to get this effect
Small doses of nicotine have a slight arousal effect. People whose life seems boring and uninteresting to them use it in order to add a little diversity to their existence. People who are addicted to the tobacco arousal effect tend to be under the threat of becoming addictive to other substances, like alcohol, chemical drugs etc. This type of addiction becomes even more obvious in combination with alcohol and caffeine.

2. Smoking is a way to fill silence gaps when communicating
Lots of smokers report they tend to consume more cigarettes when they are in a company of people who smoke. For many people smoking is social, a factor that helps to get acquainted with others, a motive to spend time together, and a way to participate in communication without opening one’s mouse. Some smokers report they do not feel any urge to smoke unless they are in a company.

3. Smoking is an attribute of being “adult”.
This factor is of most importance for adolescent who start to smoke. Teenagers often want to get older as soon as possible. For them being a grown up is a synonym of being independent, able to do what one wants. Adults do not have to visit school, they are not limited in resources (at least lots of kids and teenagers think so), they are not obliged to do things their parents tell them to do. Most teenagers do not think over the point that adults have to carry the responsibility for decisions they make. After such smokers grow up they find out they actually have to take responsibility for their poor health condition caused by their adolescent decision to start smoking in order to look like an adult.

4. Smoking is an attribute of being “cool”
As Gidwani et al found in their study, the more hours an adolescent spends near the TV screen, the more chance is that she will begin to smoke. Lots of movies, shows and music videos depict smoking people as successful and loved ones. Adolescents’ minds are much more vulnerable to such images than that of the grownups, so lots of teenagers try smoking because they want to look cool, or look like their favorite star. In the same time their subconsciousness accepts the images of happy, successful and loved smokers, and concludes smoking is a necessary attribute of such a person.

To learn to survive in the outer world, children imitate adult behaviours, and smoking is one of the most attractive ones, as it demonstrates belonging to the dangerous adult world. Children tend to start smoking to be like their elder siblings or parents, or favourite TV show protagonists. As the kids’ organisms are more vulnerable to addiction inductive substances than that of the adults, they tend to be physically addicted to smoking much more quickly than the adults are.

In addition, there is a bond between smoking and using drugs. The smoker does not have the psychological barrier against inhaling substances, thus it is much easier for him/her to try marijuana, than for the non-smoker. This is especially true for youngsters, as their psychological barriers towards trying substances are lower than that of adults, as they are more curious, have less responsibilities, and less social standards and requirements to act according to them.

Possible ban on cigarette smoking is one of the most debatable ethical issues of this day. Cities and states all over the United States accept laws that limit the freedom of smokers to enjoy their habit in public places, educational institutions, or just walking down the street. Smokers and tobacco companies rebel against those rules, declaring them discriminative, while non-smokers are happy that they and their children can get more fresh air. Finding a compromise between the right of every citizen to make decisions for himself, and the initiative to limit negative tobacco products impact on the health of the citizens is one of the most challenging tasks the American government has to deal with at this time. The protest aroused among smokers by this initiative is also one of the important psychological effects of smoking.

By introducing laws that limit places where people can smoke, or increasing prices on tobacco products government creates a huge protest group. Most of the smokers protest passively, but there are some who are ready to active opposition in case they feel their rights are being violated. On one side the behaviour of smokers who oppose anti-tobacco laws may seem suicidal, as these restriction are imposed on the sake of their health, and of people who live near them, but that is where a question arises which is whether the government has the right to decide what is good and what is bad for its citizens when it concerns their personal habits. Every government and every political force has to answer this question. For now the answer is negative, as there is no American, European or Asian country where smoking is banned completely.

It is clearly seen that smoking is rather a psychological addiction than physiological one. Of course, nicotine is an addiction inductive substance, and after one decides to drop smoking she encounters with abstinence syndrome, but psychological effects of smoking are much more attractive than physical ones. Smoking allows person feel oneself comfortable as a part of the group, it calms down and helps to fill pauses in communication. For adolescents smoking is a way to look and feel older, to be “cool” in the eyes of coevals, and in their own eyes. In case an individual decides to quit smoking it is important for her to find out the psychological effects smoking has on her, and begin the process of leaving smoking behind by inventing new healthier methods to satisfy needs that are contended by inhaling tobacco fumes.

This paper analyzes the psychological effects smoking has on tobacco users, researches the motivations that attract people to smoking, explorers the physical and social characteristics of smokers. Concepts researched in this paper are connection between smoking and levels of stress, images of smokers in the media and their influence on potential tobacco consumers and interdependence between smoking and levels of self-esteem. Works analyzed to complete the paper are research studies and literature reviews found in scientific journals.
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