Smoking a Social Problem in Canada Term Paper

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¶ … incontrovertible evidence surfaced in the late 20th century that cigarette smoking is a direct agent of cancer and numerous other health problems, governments at the local, state and national level have attempted to curb cigarette smoking. They have attempted numerous efforts to curb smoking, many of which not only has placed financial, social and political strain upon cigarette manufacturers but also increased revenue streams for the government. The Canadian government in particular has reaped the benefit of taxation upon cigarettes and utilized such resources to produce anti-smoking literature in an attempt to teach the national populace on the dangers of smoking. Governments have focused on financial curbing of cigarette manufacturers not out of revenue potential motivations, but rather because of the extremely high death rates that are associated with smoking problems (Kaiserman).

However, to say that these efforts have been wholly successful would be overly boastful. Despite efforts by the Canadian government to curb smoking, national figures reveal that smoking is still extremely prevalent among the adult and teenage population in Canada on a national level. In 2005, 18% of the overall population of Canada still smokes cigarettes. This figure has substantially decreased since the 1980s, where 44% of the total population was active smokers, however this statistical decrease does not mean that the problem of smoking will be eliminated. Research shows that smoking is still a prevalent problem among the nation's youth and the anti-smoking marketing campaigns have not been successful in convincing the majority of the population to quit.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Term Paper on Smoking a Social Problem in Canada Assignment

From a sociological perspective this trend is both intriguing and disturbing. Why is it that despite the fact that the majority of Canadians are aware of the dangers of smoking, the trend towards smoking continues? It is evident that "health factors" or general "likeness" factors of cigarettes are not the answers to this essential question. The reason behind why Canadians smoke is the foundation of this research paper. We will examine why individual begin smoking; continue their smoking trends and finally what motivates them to quit smoking. These three factors are significant from both a sociological understanding of human motivation as well an important practical question for the Canadian government. The reason that Cigarette smoking continues to be a pervasive aspect of Canadian society is that it has a deeply entrenched connection with social acceptance and anti-culture rebellion.

Almost everyone knows that smoking causes cancer, emphysema and heart disease. Statistics abound which shows that smoking over a lifetime shortens life expectancy by as much as fourteen years or more, and that he habit will cost smokers thousands of dollars per year. However, individuals continue to smoke, but even worse, continue to begin the habit of smoking. Research has shown that smoking occurs not during adulthood, but rather is a trend developed as a teenager. Statistics reveal that about nine out of ten tobacco users start to smoke before the age of eighteen. Smoking is especially prevalent among Canada's youth. In 2005, teenagers in the grades six through ten reported a rate of almost 66% of teens who have tried smoking, with a further 23% reporting that they smoke daily. It is hard to imagine why these individuals begin the habit of smoking and how this habit has severely damaged at an early age. However it is clear that to understand how individuals begin smoking, we have to clearly examine the reasoning behind why teens will smoke.

To understand the reasons why individuals begin to smoke, one must understand the underlining context of smoking and the subliminal messages associated with this controversial product. Three primary reasons are attributed to the allure of smoking to beginning smokers, they are: smoking as a social institution of maturity, smoking for its physical byproducts, and smoking as a method of rebellion. All three of these reasons are identified as strong incentives and catalysts for individuals to begin smoking. The following will be a discussion of how each of these mechanisms works to draw teens to begin smoking.

Smoking and its association with maturity is cited as the leading cause for why teens start smoking. In effect it is a sign of the "herd mentality," as teenagers smoke because they see other teenagers that they admire smoking. The overall effect is that once a popular clique begins this process, others follow as a method of imitation and social acceptance. The herd effect has become deeply entrenched in Canadian society for several reasons, first because it has become popularized through cultural iconoclasm through movies, television and magazines. Second, it has become entrenched because many teenagers see their parents or other adults smoking and thus desire to imitate through using cigarettes as a symbol of maturity. Despite an attempt on an institutional level to decrease positive affiliation between popular culture and smoking this legacy as persisted within Canadian teenage culture. The use of movies and television icons as subtle forms of social marketing is still an effective medium used by cigarette companies to promote their products.

Advertising techniques continue to be one of the main reasons that people begin to smoke. Although cigarette companies claim that they do not specifically target youth in their advertisements this statement has been proven to be untrue. The use of Joe Camel in the 20th century is the most accurate demonstration of cigarette companies marketing specifically for youth. During the first four years of Camel's introduction of Joe Camel as a spokesman for the product, underage smoking increased from one to as much as thirty percent. Advertising mediums do not attempt to directly target the youth segmentation, but instead use their advertising techniques to paint smokers as "highly active, social, popular and mature." By inundating teenagers with these messages they begin to believe such advertisement and thus begin the trend of "social smoking" that starts an "information cascade." The overall affect is that it creates a strong and implicit herd mentality among youth.

Another reason that individuals begin to smoking is because teenagers model adults who smoke. Adult smokers from the 1950s to the 1970s were bombarded with advertisements that articulated not only the social benefits but also the health benefits associated with smoking. As a result, the past generation has already become addicted smokers, and this strongly influences children. Statistics reveal that children who live in households that have a smoker are twice as likely to begin smoking. Children want to model the behavior of adults and therefore when they see their parents smoking them too want to take up this process. The allure of seeming mature and associated with strong symbolism that is rooted in the use of cigarettes for the majority of teenagers. This becomes another implicit reason for those begin smoking.

This theory of "social smoking" explains much of the data within recent Canadian research. There is a growing disparity between those who have "tried smoking" and those who "smoke daily"; this difference is evidence that smoking is a social institution rather a factor of entrenchment. Which gives hope that the majority of teenagers who begin smoking will only do so as an occasional or "once in the lifetime" practice rather than a consistent habit? However, the subliminal implication of social smoking is one of the leading reasons for why teenagers begin smoking.

The second reason that teenagers begin smoking is that they desire the physical affects of smoking. Teenagers commonly believe that smoking will increase their overall physical state through several factors. First, teenagers falsely believe that cigarettes provide a calming affect and relaxation affect. Secondly, teenagers, especially girls, believe that smoking curbs the appetite and induces weight loss. Finally, they also believe that smoking increases mental capacity and heightened awareness. All three of these understandings are false. Studies have conclusively shown that cigarettes rate the heart rate rather than calm individuals, and that although it appears that weight loss occurs in fact cigarette smoking encourages the build up of saturated fatty acids. The reason that teens have such an impression is primarily because of social mediums which portray thin, athletic, cool and sexy individuals smoking. As a result of this cultural iconoclasm, social smoking becomes associated with all of the physical attributes described above.

The final reason that teenagers begin smoking is perhaps the most dangerous reason, because they want a sense of empowerment and a greater sense of rebellion against the established "normalcy." Professor Rupert Murray explains, "Part of the reason smoking has become even more prevalent in Canadian teens is because of the counter-cultural forces at play. Smoking goes against the grain; it empowers, positions, and creates a strong anti-culture movement" (NOTATION). By restricting the act of smoking, and creating a strong anti-smoking campaign, a reverse effect is being created throughout the industry. The fact is that nine out of every ten teenagers already know that smoking is bad for them from a physical perspective; however, this does not stop them from trying to smoke. The reasoning behind this is simple, the implicit health risks associated with smoking is far-fetching and… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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