Teens weigh in on how they feel about smoking

By: - June 29, 2005 4:58 am

Fayetteville Observer
By Jessica De Vault
Staff writer

According to the American Lung Association, 90 percent of smokers begin smoking before the age of 21. Right now, the group estimates, about 4.5 million adolescents in the United States are cigarette smokers.

We wanted to find out what teens around Fayetteville think about smoking. Their opinions run the spectrum from the vehement anti-smoker to the kid who loves to smoke.

Donovan Whitted-Griffith is one busy guy. He’s a junior at Westover High School, and in his spare time he works a job and steps for several step teams.

Despite all the natural stresses of his day-to-day life, Donovan has never felt the urge to take a puff of a nicotine stick.

"I just never thought it was right," Donovan said. "I was just always taught to never do it."

Being pressured to smoke as early as 13, Donovan knew that teens were smoking because it was a fad.

"I guess it’s the peer pressure, the stress at home, school, things of that nature," he said.

Donovan’s natural angst about smoking was reinforced when he tried out for yet another step team.

"In order to be on the team you had to join Teens Against Tobacco Use," Donovan said.

Since then, he has participated in several Tobacco Reality Unfiltered events.

"We always demonstrated that there are things you can do besides smoke, as far as stepping, modeling, singing," he said. "You can’t smoke and maintain doing these type of things."

Akeem Tinsley, a senior at Westover, is much more laid back. He’s not as active in the campaign against smoking as Donovan is, but he is still quite adamant about not smoking.

"Its not really the best decision you can make," Akeem said. "I mean, I don’t see the point. It can cause you to die. I don’t see why people would keep buying it with the prices going up."

But Akeem has his own hypothesis as to why teens his age smoke.

"Basically, everyone is doing it," Akeem said. "It’s like ‘Should I join in? Nothing better to do.’"

He sat back in his chair and shrugged his shoulders.

"It’s kind of like a typical stereotype; it’s cool or something," he said. "It’s like its already known and established that you should do it."

The 18-year-old was 16 when he first got pressured to smoke. He didn’t give in, but nowadays his friends know better than to ask him to take a puff.

"They know who I am," he said. "They know my mentality. I’m not going to do anything stupid."

Marnie McKee likes to smoke, period.

The recent Terry Sanford grad has been smoking since she was 14. She was influenced by her older brother.

Marnie says that smoking is beneficial and shouldn’t be prohibited for teens.

"Personally, I think its a stress-reducer," she said.

Marnie also said that students should have more flexibility to smoke on campus.

Yes, she knows the health risks, but Marnie will tell you that her refusal to stop smoking is out of concern for people around her.

"This will sound weird," Marnie said. "But it keeps me from being a health risk to others. If someone makes me angry I can just go outside and smoke. So I don’t explode or something."

She currently smokes a pack a day and isn’t trying to quit.

Staff writer Jessica DeVault can be reached at [email protected] or 323-4848, ext. 596.

Teen-smoking statistics

  • According to a 2001 national survey of high school students, the overall prevalence of current cigarette use was 28 percent.
  • Each day, nearly 6,000 children under 18 years of age start smoking; of these, nearly 2,000 will become regular smokers. That is almost 800,000 annually.
  • Nearly 20 percent of 12th graders, 12 percent of 10th graders and 5.5 percent of 8th graders smoke cigarettes daily.
  • 24,000 kids become new smokers in North Carolina each year.
  • The average age that people start smoking is 13.
  • More people die from the health effects of tobacco use that the combined total of people who die from alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders and suicides.
  • Evidence shows that around 50 percent of those who start smoking in adolescent years go on to smoke for 15 to 20 years.

    Sources: The American Lung Association, N.C. Health and Wellness Trust Fund, World Heath Organization

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    Chris Fitzsimon

    Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina. [email protected] 919-861-2066