The number of teenagers lighting up cigarettes has dropped significantly in the last decade but there are still some teens out there failing to adhere to anti-smoking campaigns.
A 16-year-old Orchard Hills boy, who wishes to remain anonymous, is just one local teenager who has recently taken up the habit, despite the ever mounting health warnings.
“I’ve been smoking for a little under a year now and I find it quite relaxing,” the teen said.
“Smoking is my way to get away from everything and gives me time to think. It’s also a good way to bond with someone I believe.”
The boy admitted he was initially influenced by his friends to light up, but said he and his mates were a rare few as smoking at his local high school is far from popular.
“Only two kids out of my whole year (Year 11) currently smoke,” he said.
“I got into smoking after hanging out with a group of guys who were all smoking, so I thought to myself why not? I wasn’t pressured into it by them, I was just always interested in what smoking would be like, so I thought why not try it with my mates?”
Since 1984, when the first NSW secondary school survey on smoking was conducted, smoking rates among 12 to 17-year-old secondary school students have declined from a high 20.5 per cent.
A 2008 survey of NSW secondary students found that current (smoked in the last week) smoking rates were 6.9 per cent among boys aged 12 to 17 and 7.7 per cent among girls in the same age group – a huge drop from when smoking was considered ‘cool’ in the 80’s and 90’s.
The teen said he was aware of the health dangers smoking caused but wouldn’t give up because of them.
“I don’t really think about the health dangers and I don’t believe I’m at risk,” he said.
“I’m a fit young guy and I haven’t seen any immediate changes to my health. When I’m smoking I don’t really care what I’m breathing in.”
Community Network Coordinator of Cancer Council’s Penrith Hub, Rodney Titovs, said the Cancer Council were strong advocates in plain packaging and ‘out of sight’ cigarette merchandising to deter youngsters from smoking.
“Young people are quite effected by sight, the less that is seen the less it becomes part of their behaviour,” he said.
“Other young people should discipline other kids about smoking by telling them it’s wrong, telling them it’s not cool, telling them it’s bad for their health.”
For the 16-year-old anonymous schoolboy, he said he’s finding it difficult to get a hold of cigarettes and may be forced to quit the deadly habit because of it.