Why do people start smoking? Top 10 reasons

Most people who smoke start around or before age 18. Top 10 reasons people start smoking (based on research!) here.

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Why do people smoke?

Smoking has interested health organizations, governments, and non-profits since the 1980’s. This is because smoking cigarettes is associated with enormous social costs in health care and is highly addictive. According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids , smoking has been associated with 400,000 deaths every year in the U.S., $96B in health care costs and $97B in lost productivity costs. So, researchers started looking into ways to prevent people from smoking.

The strategy of cigarette smoking prevention has lead to many studies which attempt to identify the predictors or risk factors which lead people to smoke. We actually have quite a lot of literature on the matter! And seeing that children and teens make up the majority of all new smokers, dozens of studies have been completed which examine how and why young people start smoking. Of the hundreds of reasons why people smoke and start to smoke, we attempt here to provide you with the most well-accepted predictors of smoking here.

Top 10 reasons people start smoking

1. Family attitudes that condone smoking – Young people who start smoking in their teen years frequently have siblings, parents, grandparents or “broader family” members who smoke. The risk that a person start smoking is often higher if one or both parents smoke.

2. Peer pressure – Peer smoking is a stronger predictor of smoking onset for high school students. And the number of cigarette offers made to students can affect whether or not they become smokers, or not. Also, young people who play sports are less likely to smoke.

3. Copycatting what is cool in popular culture – Although peer and family influences have been shown to be powerful predictors of adolescent smoking, social influences also exist in the larger cultural sphere. Movies, advertisements, and other forms of media shape teen views of what is “cool,” attractive, and grown up. Therefore, some people start smoking to emulate their heroes or to embody what is chic.

4. Sociodemographic factors – The environment in which a person grows up in has an indirect but powerful influence on whether or not s/he will smoke. Young people living in or at the poverty line, with one parent who has little education are most at risk of becoming smokers.

5. Personality traits – Internal determinants of smokers include certain inborn or nutured personality traits such as unconventionality, risk taking, thrill seeking or rebelliousness.

6. Making up for poor social or personal skills – Young people who are less socially competent, who are not trained in refusal self-efficacy, who participate in antisocial activities, who have low self-esteem or who are disengaged from school may be more attracted to smoking than those who are socially engaged and confident.

7. Smoking for weight loss – Some people start smoking because they worry about their weight and figure and smoke to try to be thinner.

8. Availability – Although it is illegal to sell tobacco products to minors and in some States smoking by minors is also illegal, cigarettes are highly available to young people. In fact, the more smokers there are who smoke around children, the more children have an opportunity to handle cigarettes and smoking accessories from an early age: they get, buy, or even light cigarettes. So, some people start smoking simply because cigarettes are around.

9. Already using other drugs – Teens who already smoke marijuana, drink alcohol, or use illicit drugs are more likely to smoke cigarettes than those who do not, perhaps due to a decreased perception of harm.

10. Stress relief – Some people initiate tobacco use because they believe that it helps them cope with personal problems or boredom.

Do you have something to add here? Or do you have a question or comment about the above? Please leave your comments below and we are happy to respond personally and promptly to each.

Reference sources: Tobacco Use Among Youth
Why children start smoking cigarettes: Predictors of onset
Can parents influence smoking?
Where do our children learn to smoke?
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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  1. do not smoke it will be to unhealthy and you will end up getting cancer and die. your family will miss you so don’t do it please.

  2. I want to start smoking because my family is a bunch of psychos. They’re inconsiderate, stupid, and mean. I’m losing my mind because all these people want me to live life a certain way, which doesn’t make me happy. I’m tired of religious people trying to get me to live some ass-happy way that makes them miserable.

  3. I smoke my sister died of it at 55 my mom died 3 years ago from it . It’s scary I have lung problems it’s additive. And as one Dr told me it’s stupid I agree. I want to try hypnosis. If you can quit now ..

  4. I started smoking at 17 to help cope with mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders and also just stress in general. I wasn’t too afraid to try cigarettes since I had previously started smoking marijuana, but when that became too expensive I turned to cigarettes instead. I’ll admit they’re not as good, but I don’t intend to smoke for long and I hope to give them up once I can get anxiety meds. I keep to my quota of 3 cigarettes a day and that is monitored by my boyfriend. He doesn’t strictly monitor it but I wouldn’t break a promise to him.

  5. How do you quite a habit? If you take out the H in habit you have a bit . If you take out the A in abit, you have bit left. If you take out the B in bit, you have it left. And if you take out the I in it, you have t a cross left. Jesus is how you get rid of a habit for good.

  6. I don’t smoke but I see heaps of people smoking in the city and it smells gross, I always hold my breath when I pass smokers.

  7. Actually, these reasons only make one smoker but later when they wish to quit smoking in there best way it becomes terribly hard for them to quit. Quitsmokingweed appreciates the blog that mentions right reasons as this is going help many not to become a smoker.

  8. All those with an anti-smoking attitude, Think the taves we pay. The government would go broke without us. I enjoy my cigarettes every one. I can’t remember when I did not smoke. I was smoking in the third grade. I remember that first smoke. Back then there were no lite cigarettes. I was just in the hospital unrelated problem, my lungs and heart were perfnect I non-smokers are big babies who envy the enjoyment. They were just to chicken shit to try it/

  9. I was frequently ragging on my neighbor for smoking, as she smoked a lot. She’s, though, quite attractive otherwise and, after several years, we grew attracted to each other. She knew I how I felt in this way so she started seducing me, which didn’t take much.
    At the height of passion she forced me to take a drag on her cigarette, “forced” meaning that she literally placed her cigarette to my lips while telling me it would turn her on if I’d smoke it with her. Needless to say, it did…a lot.
    Over a short time she’d do this before and during and, finally, after. She told me it’s exciting to her to “corrupt” me. She wanted me to be her “smoking buddy with benefits”. It was hard to turn down. It got to the point where every time she’d light up, she’d light two, for each of us. I quickly got used to it and, some months later, started missing it when on my own.
    Within the year we moved in together in another town and I was smoking with her all the time with her telling me I have a lot to catch up to, in terms of all the years of my not smoking.
    These days we both smoke. It’s become as much a part of who I am, now, as it is hers. I don’t think anyone local would ever know I didn’t smoke until quite late in life, and (now) my wife thinks it better that way. She won me over in more ways than one.

  10. hi my name is paul I have tried smoking cigarettes but nothing came out of my mouth I tried the best I knew how but no nothing

  11. some say they smoke for relieving their stress .what kind of a stress reliever is this ? and how does it even relieve stress . also any people in their teens think its cool and everyone smokes that is totally wrong cause the fun they have now is what they are going to regret later .

  12. Based on the article and then reading some of the comments on this thread, I’d have to agree that low intelligence is likely a great indicator of why someone would start smoking. Yikes.

  13. never started. it looked stupid, the people who smoked looked and acted stupid,a dependency is a weakness.expensive,unhealthy,makes me choke,smells bad.bad breath, when someone says it takes e stress away i hide their smokes and watch them act like they will kill for a smoke.i film them and show co-workers,friends and families.i have got.too much to live for.

  14. I am a non smoker but it seems to me you missed the most significant reason people start smoking. They are curious about what sort of pleasure or sensation it supplies!

  15. In these days smoking is a big problem. We have more and more people who are addicted to cigarettes and other dangerous substances. I think the government and special organizations should prevent people from starting smoke, because it’s better to counteract than cure. Our health is more important than our weight. Cigarette smoke and tobacco only destroy our bodies. It’s also necessary to teach young people about consequences and bad influence of smoking. On the other hand – people have to deal with problems, stress and lack of confident without cigarettes, because cigarettes couldn’t solve all the troubles.

  16. I think that people who smoke do not care for their well proportioned body
    we got an extraordinary body we must USE IT WELL

  17. I was addicted to rolled cigarettes, especially it called “kretek” made in Indonesia. I really enjoyed it taste and I still can not move to the filtered ones. But most importantly, I always smoke alone without anyone else around me.

  18. Some people initiate tobacco use because they believe that it helps them cope with personal problems or boredom. I agree with you.

  19. Hello Natasha. You made a good remark. I’ve noticed this also and I think it’s the result of the commercials that used to promote smoking back at the time. You know, the way it was represented as cool and as a status symbol…

  20. I have smoked for most of my adult life and made a decision to quit smoking this past year after going through Clinical Hypnotherapy training. Starting in May, 2012, I’ve had 2 personal hypnotherapy sessions and listened consistently to my self-hypnosis CD’s and to date, I’ve managed to quit smoking two packs of cigarettes a day and lose more than 50 pounds at the same time. I’m proud of the accomplishments and I’m now trying to help others do the same. It can be done more easily than you think if you’re motivated to do it… I know because I’ve done it. 🙂

  21. Hi Claire. Thanks for sharing a little bit about what it’s like for you. It sounds like you are “mirroring” the smoking habits of your mom and grandmother, which is actually quite common. If you don’t like smoking and want to stop, you can reach out to a tobacco cessation telephone hotline in your area and talk with someone about what to do.

  22. I started smoking this yer im 16 an i did it cause me an my mom fight constantly it seems … My dad kicked me out an it seemed ciggs wheere the only cure to my depressed self . My mom smokes an my grandma i really never thought it wuld ever come to me smoking to cure my problems but it is . an i do it daily i can smoke half a pack it seems in 3 hours … Its terrible but in a way i dont want to quite but then i do …

  23. hiya, i have never smoked b4, but from what u guys hav said, it seems easy to start, not so easy to stop. hope u guys can quit.

  24. I have read everyone’s blog and can agree with just about everyone. I started smoking at the age of 11 and I am now 29 years old. My parents smoked and two of my sisters aunts uncles and grandpa. I can agree with Jasmine as well, smoking because when you are in your teens you go through a phase of thinking that you do not care about your own life and some even think of smoking as a slow suicide. I watch as my dad and grandfather suffer the effects that tobacco use has brought upon them and I know that I am not far behind. Quitting is the hard part! Stop smoking aides do not always work for everyone! Best wishes to those who are wanting to quit.

  25. Hello santos. We are sorry to hear of your parents’ condition. We hope that they are able to experience peace during this time of transition, and that you may also.

  26. hey there,i am a student of the university of Buea Cameroon.i am begging for help from anyone with a good heart and also to advice that anyone who comes across this message should take it serious cause nicotine is a very bad addiction to engage in.both my parents are suffering from these smoking addiction.they are having lungs problems and are on their dying bed.i just want help from any good heart person to offer me help in any way so that i can get them operated.thanks to anyone.

  27. young people start smoking mostly because of stress they have in their life like if parents get a divorce and they cant deal with it anymore but they aren’t dumb enough to commit suicide and start doing real serious drugs, and they think they will be able to quit went their life starts getting back to normal

  28. Hi Jasmine. Thanks for sharing (honesty is always really good).

    Someone once told me that every inhale from a cigarette is actually acting out a death wish. What do you think about that? Can you relate?

  29. I started smoking when i was 17. The reason? I told my then boyfriend that if he didnt quit, i would start.Needless to say, he didnt quit. I cant put all the blame on him though, my father smoked when i was younger, my older brother smokes and my grandfather smoked…guess i wanted to be like the guys. I also found myself drawn to the mystery of cigs, i wanted to know first hand why people would start. Now im 21 and i smoke constantly, i admit it’s gross. I regret ever starting, but just because people smoke doesnt mean they are stupid, cigs are more addictive than non-smokers would think.

  30. This is a must read for everyone. My husband started smoking when he was working and all of his co-workers are smoking too. It is a good thing that he already stopped a year ago.

  31. I’m 14 and I started smoking because both my parents one of my grandparents many of my aunts and uncles and basically cause I use it as a stress release

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