Why Do Teenagers Start Smoking?

By Lindsey Samilian

The percentage of teenagers who start smoking has significantly declined over the last 10 years, according to the website for the Family First Aid Organization (see Reference 1). This trend is generally attributed to public awareness regarding the harmful effects of cigarettes. However, this does not mean the trend has halted. In fact, according to the American Lung Association website, 6,000 young people under age 18 still start smoking every day (see Reference 2).

Ignoring Effects

Even with all the awareness of the harmful effects of smoking, teenagers feel invincible. When you are young, it is easy to feel immune to the long-term harmful effects. Teenagers sometimes feel that they will eventually quit before anything happens to them even though 50 percent of adult smokers started before they turned 18, according to the American Lung Association website (see Reference 2).

Parental Influence

Teenagers who have parents who smoke are more likely to take it up. In fact, according to the Family First Aid Organization's website, 98 percent of teenage smokers have parents who smoke (see Reference 1).

Peer Influence

Teens smoke because their friends do. If a teenager spends most of his time with friends who smoke, there is a good chance he will start as well. Good old-fashioned peer pressure is still one of the strongest forces that compels teenagers to start the habit.


According to the Child Psychology Research Blog, teenagers with higher exposure to movies and television programs that feature characters smoking are more likely to start themselves (see Reference 3).


Cigarettes are more accessible to teens than adults think. Most teenagers under 18 have at least one friend who is 18 or older and is willing to purchase cigarettes for them. Many teenagers can even buy a pack of cigarettes without being asked to show identification. They may also have access to them in the home if they have parents or siblings who smoke.

About the Author

Lindsey Samilian is a graduate of the University of Florida. She works in Los Angeles, CA as an assistant in the entertainment industry. She writes part time for Demand Studios.