We smoke while drinking our morning coffee to get a great start to our day. We smoke on summer evenings with our friends on the balcony, or between lectures before university. We smoke outside in front of a bar just to socialize or to celebrate a special moment. If you’re a smoker, just reading this list will make you want to smoke. Yet you know exactly how bad smoking is for you.

In Germany between 100,000 and 120,000 people are dying each year because of smoking, according to the “Drogen- und Suchtbericht”. Nevertheless, smoking seems to be a trend among young people right now. Regardless of the health risks.

In 2022, the proportion of smokers among 14- to 17-year-olds has risen. Currently, 15.9 percent of this age group smoke. This is according to a scientific survey on smoking behavior (DEBRA). In the previous year, the proportion in this group had been only 8.7 percent.

I asked students of the FH why they started smoking.

Fabian, 23, studies multimedia production

Sara: Why did you start smoking?
Fabian: As a teenager to give it a try, to have the experience. As an adult to unwind from stress.
But also, through group dynamics within work colleagues.

Sara: Did you ever try to quit?
Fabian: Yes, but it never worked.
Sometimes for several weeks.
Sometimes only for a few days.

Sara: Does it leave you cold, that you could get sick from smoking and possibly die?
Fabian: It scares me off. But the effects are not directly visible when you smoke.
But I know that it is harmful, and I often think about quitting completely.

Sara: Do you think the pandemic has affected your smoking habits?
Fabian: Has had an effect. You smoked more because there was nothing going on.

Sara: You are rolling a cigarette right now. Do you still feel like smoking now that you have thought about the damage?
Fabian: Yes, that’s the thing with addiction, you know? That’s the problem. When you’re addicted, you don’t care if it’s harmful. You know it but you don’t change anything.

Young adults smoking outside (©Sara Blume)

Daria, 22, studies social work

Sara: Why did you start smoking?
Daria: Peer pressure. I wanted to be cool. I was 15 and wanted to impress someone. Then I just kind of got addicted.

Sara: If I tell you that every second smoker dies from consuming tobacco, do you still feel like having a cigarette?
Daria: No, not anymore. But that could also be because I am sick and I have to cough a lot.

Sara: So, you are not afraid of dying from smoking?
Daria: No.

Sara: Why not?
Daria: Because we all have to die anyway. My mother has been a smoker for a long time and is still healthy.

Sara: Yes, but you can’t conclude from individual cases that it will be the same for you. How much do you smoke?
Daria: Not much. Maybe one cigarette a day. A bit more when I am partying.

Sara: Do you not care about the consequences of your consumption?
Daria: Well, i just want to enjoy my life. Nothing can be done about death. Nevertheless, I try to smoke not too much. And I don’t plan to do that for the rest of my life.

Sara: So, you know that smoking is harmful for you?
Daria: Yes, in any case.

Sara: Then why don’t you stop?
Daria: Because I don’t smoke much, and I think a cigarette a day is not that bad, you know?

Sara: Did the Ukraine war, the pandemic and all the other things going on right now effect your smoking habits?
Daria: No, I don’t think so. I am smoking because it’s a fun thing to do especially with friends.
Not because I am stressed. The world is somehow always going down. A cigarette can’t change that.

“Rauchen schädigt Zähne und Zahnfleisch” (©Sara Blume)

Young people smoke out of curiosity, to impress others, or simply because everyone else does. But young bodies are susceptible to the numerous toxins contained in cigarettes. And as Fabian says, the consequences are not always directly visible.
The reasons for the drastic increase of young smokers were not surveyed in the study mentioned above. However, crises such as the Corona pandemic or the Ukraine war could play a role. Both create a certain underlying mood and could be a reason for more stress among a few young people. As a result, they might start smoking. A dangerous trend that can be fatal.

For more infos about the DEBRA study click here: https://www.debra-study.info/