smoking youth

How youth smoking is lighting up its revival

How youth smoking is lighting up its revival

This dangerous habit is fashion’s hottest accessory.

Smoking cigarettes has undergone a transformative shift in perception and prevalence among the youth of Generation Z, largely influenced by the popularity of social media within this demographic.

Nothing projects an essence of coolness like a nice little burnable nicotine stick that can add a touch of rebellion to your fit pic or photo dump.

Growing up, I used to see anti-smoking ads that condemned smoking as a cardinal sin on my mom’s cigarette packets or in between watching my daily cartoons on the television.

As a child, I was very sensitive to the information I consumed. Having parents who condemned smoking (although my mom was a smoker), put an evil narrative in my mind, until adulthood.

In recent years this "taboo" act has become plastered across our screens. The release of HBO's The Idol last summer, found Lily Rose Depp lighting up a skinny cigarette on screen approximately every two minutes.

The romance between Depp and her cigarette is popping up in real life as well, with snapshots proliferating of her along with other off-duty models and celebrities like Anya Taylor Joy, Jenna Ortega, and Dua Lipa taking drags from cigarettes.

youth smokingBeyond Hollywood, we are currently seeing more young people smoking outside of clubs, dive bars, college campuses, and anywhere frequented by 'creative,' 'alternative' types.

Although smoking is being reintroduced online to a newer generation of followers, this habit is also spreading in our day-to-day lives.

Through asking your classmates or coworkers if they would like to go for a smoke break with you as a torrid way of bonding, this age-old practice is being reinstated in our lives after decades of efforts and campaigns to suppress it.

I started smoking when I moved to Montreal during the pandemic because I saw all the 'cool' people around me were doing it, i.e. your typical SSENSE baddie.

When taking selfies or making content for social media, I realized this lens has become a dynamic force in shaping the vices of today's youth. Smoking evokes a timeless sense of rebellion and dash of sophistication. How else are we supposed to show that we’re rebels without a cigarette?

Smoking to me was a way for me to connect with others when I first moved away from home. At one of my first jobs in the fashion industry, I was able to bond with my work friends during our 10-minute smoke breaks.

What better opportunity exists to gossip and get to know each other? Although smoking can kill, it made me feel less lonely to be a part of something, even if it was just a gaggle of smokers.

Influential fashion figures and it-girls such as Bella Hadid and Alexa Chung sporting an occasional cig in their fit pics have greatly shaped the way we view cigarettes.

While Instagram and TikTok are powerful platforms that mold trends and influence youth culture today, it's essential to note that these platforms do not actively encourage smoking.

However, there are concerns about the potential for certain content on these platforms to glamorize smoking, inadvertently contributing to the perception of smoking as cool and 'fashionable.' 

The push of smoking content can be particularly influential on impressionable younger audiences, who are more susceptible to peer and social influences. The power of visual storytelling on these platforms can subconsciously contribute to the perception that smoking is a part of a desirable lifestyle.

Although JUULing is now banned in the United States, it once took over social media the same way cigarettes are right now.

youth smokingTo counteract this influence, public health campaigns and anti-smoking initiatives leveraged social media to disseminate information about the health risks of smoking, promote a smoke-free lifestyle, and challenge the glamorization of tobacco use.

The goal is to balance the narrative by providing a more comprehensive and accurate portrayal of the consequences associated with smoking.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) concluded in a 2020 report that the sales of cigarettes have increased, "The number of cigarettes that the largest cigarette companies in the United States sold to wholesalers and retailers nationwide increased from 202.9 billion in 2019 to 203.7 billion in 2020...this represents the first time annual cigarette sales have increased in 20 years."

Although there has been endless discourse surrounding smoking over the years, it seems as though it will never die out. Clearly, smoking (an addictive accessory) will forever be a part of the trend cycle.

This article is from Youthquaker Magazine, a print arts & culture publication pushing youth-driven journalism on untapped multidisciplinary subject matter.

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