Substance Abuse – smoking

Smoking is an addiction and it is just one of many. People can be addicted to video games, work, gambling and eating. What is it that initiates that first try of a cigarette and why do people continue to crave it? Is it really a choice? There are countless reasons to stop and evidence to support the fact it is not good for your health. Smoking increases the risks of respiratory disease, lung cancer, heart disease, pregnancy complications, infertility, early menopause and cancer (Roth & Taylor, 2002). The risks are clear to see, even to people who smoke, a packet of cigarettes will have the risks written or pictured on them. However, if it was so easy to quit everyone who does smoke may have done so by now and people would not start in the first place.

How do people view you for smoking? Does he have a risky personality? Does he enjoy the reaction from the crowd?

How do people view you for smoking? Does he have a risky personality? Does he enjoy the reaction from the crowd?

Wetter (2005) suggested some people are more vulnerable than others depending on their social class (cited in Pastornio & Doyle-Portillo, 2011). According to Wetter those with a low level income, education, and occupational status are more likely to smoke. Further research by Pierce (1989) found that this type of low level social class are also less successful at quitting smoking. In 2007 the Information Services Division Scotland also found girls were more likely to smoke than boys. Croghan (2006) found a correlation between smoking, low self esteem and low expectations in adolescents. In order to be successful in quitting smoking intervention programmes could be initiated to target the reasons mentioned above.

The reason could even be genetic. According to the biological approach all behaviour is inherited from parents. So we can question whether there is a genetic predisposition for smoking, it is a possibility, but does that then mean smoking is not self inflicted and we should not blame the individual for starting? Research to support this assumption is done through family studies, adoption studies and twin studies. Hughes (1986) conducted a study containing two groups of adolescents. One group lived with family members who smoked and the other with those who did not. Results showed 52% of the adolescents living with people who smoke started to smoke, 20% of adolescents in the  group living with people who did not smoke started to. This is a deterministic way to view the assumption of genetic predisposition. It does not take into account social influences or even personality differences. For this reason we cannot assume there is a genetic predisposition for smoking. People start for many different reasons and they continue to smoke for the same or alternate reasons. Nicotine is an addictive drug, people may become addicted more easily than others and they may quit easier too. We cannot generalise people who smoke and say it is all for the same reason, because evidence suggests there is more than one motive.


Roth, L.K., & Taylor, S.H. (2002). Risks of smoking to reproductive health: Assessment of women’s knowledge. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 184, 934-939. doi:10.1067/mob.2001.112103

Pastorino, E.E., & Doyle-Portillo, S.M. (2011). What Is Psychology? Cenage Learning, 523-524.

Information Services Division Scotland (2007). Drug Misuse Statistics Scotland, Information Services, Edinburgh.

Croghan, I.T., Bronars, C., Patten, C.A., Schroeder, D.R., Nirelli, L.M., . . . Hurt, R.D. (2006). Is Smoking Related to Body Image Satisfaction, Stress, and Self-esteem in Young Adults? American Journal of Health Behaviour, PNG Publications, 30, 322-333.

Hughes J.R. (2006). Genetics of smoking: A brief review, Behaviour Therapy, University of Vermont College of Medicine USA, 17, 335-345. doi:10.1016/S0005-7894(86)80066-1


3 thoughts on “Substance Abuse – smoking

  1. I think you have summed up the argument well in suggesting that no singular explanation for addictive behaviour can be generalised. As with most phenomena in psychology multiple perspectives must be considered in explaining human behaviour. Both physiological and social factors attribute to the development of addiction. Factors such as genetic predisposition, and indeed the characteristics of the drug itself, are crucial in developing addictive behaviour in regards to biology. However, family dynamics or associations with certain cultures are just as influential. Lowe (1995) states that addictive behaviour should be analysed as a biopsychosocial entity.

  2. McNeil (1991)found that only a third of people who try cigarettes carry on with the addiction. You discussed whether the reason for people smoking is because of genetics or their environment however i do agree with what you said that in fact it may be a bit of both e.g some people may be more genetically predisposed to smoking however whether they act upon this may be due to their environment. A widely accepted explanation for the people who don’t carry on smoking is because they have a high innate sensitivity to nicotine therefore when trying for the first time they have a bad experience therfore the need for further experimentation does not occur Silverstein, Kelly, Swan, & Kozlowski (1982).People who do become addicted are the people who are less sensitive to nicotine therefore do not experience any bad feelings therefore having less of a bad experience consequently they carry on smoking Friedman, Lichtenstein, & Biglan, (1985) leading to an addiction

  3. I agree that it may be genetic, however i believe that peer influences is a factor both from parents and peers smoking habits. Bricker et al. 2006 did a longituinal study on this and found peer smoking was most influential on trying smoking while parental smoking became more influential on the transition from monthly to daily smoking as they ot older. This could be from the initial influence or from the genetic.

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