Why Smoking Stays Cool
A new survey shows that kids in the UK are smoking back to their old levels a decade ago, and nobody is entirely sure why. Evidence that anti-smoking messages make young people more likely to light up has been mounting for eight years, with one group of researchers finding that “quit smoking” campaigns appear to stimulate a teenage rebellious streak, sparking fresh interest in smoking.
Western kids live pretty unthreatening lives, so a message that smoking kills is about as close as anyone gets to doing something wicked and dangerous (I was going to suggest that two years spent fighting the Taliban might change their concept of danger, but realised at that point I would have turned into my father, recommending a dose of conscription for young people.) Smoking is a convenient form of rebellion, because you can choose who to show this rebel side to. It doesn’t help that smoking appears as a choice to people just at the age when they are discovering choices for themselves, and that they don’t yet appreciate the nature of addiction.
As a non-smoker who spent three years living with my best friend’s lung and brain cancer, which came as a direct result of his smoking habit, I feel quite strongly about this. It wasn’t until I stood on the toilet seat in the bathroom of the exclusive Harley Street Clinic unscrewing the smoke detector so that my buddy could have one more cigarette that the true insanity of smoking really hit me.
I’ve started a sequel to ‘Paperboy’, about my years in the film industry working with this extraordinary man, who was diagnosed with cancer less than one month after his retirement. It will be called ‘Film Freak’, and there will be smoking in it, but not in a cool way.