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Smoke Signals: What Your Cigarette Says About You

By Jennifer Ashton, M.D., Ob-Gyn with Christine Larson
WebMD Feature by “The Body Scoop for Girls”

About a million years ago—like, in the 60s and 70s—smoking was supposed to make you seem cool, sophisticated, and worldly. That image is total history. In movies and TV shows today it’s almost always the bad guy that smokes, not the hero. Today smoking doesn’t say “I’m cool.” Instead it gives off three clear messages to your friends . . . probably not the ones you want to send.

  1. “I don’t care about my health.” Unless you’ve been living under that rock, you know smoking is bad for you. Everybody else knows that, too. And they know you know. So when people see you smoking, you’re telling them “I don’t care about my body.” And if you don’t care, why should anybody else?
  2. “I’m looking for trouble.” It’s unusual for a teen smoker to be a straight-A student athlete. I’m not saying it can’t happen, but it’s the exception, not the rule. Smoking often goes hand in hand with other unhealthy behavior, including alcohol and drug use, higher rates of sexual activity (which lead to higher rates of STIs and pregnancy), and bad grades. In one study teens who smoked cigarettes in the previous month were three times more likely to use alcohol, eight times more likely to smoke pot, and twenty-two times more likely to use cocaine than teens who didn’t smoke. With every cigarette, you send up signals that you’re looking for trouble. It’s only a matter of time before it finds you.
  3. “I’m insecure!” If you’re smoking to seem cool or sophisticated, you’re actually sending the opposite message. Smoking tells people that you’re insecure on some level. It says you’re willing to do anything—even something unhealthy—to fit in or seem cool.

Sure, we all feel insecure sometimes. I myself fell victim to more than one unfortunate fashion trend to fit in with my high school friends. Lucky for me, red suede ankle boots don’t cause cancer. If you’re insecure enough to risk your health just to make a statement or get attention, what else might you end up doing? Don’t go down this road—either with smoking or with fashion!

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