The Irony of Nicotine Addiction in Generation Z

UC Davis students reveal their views and experiences with vaping and smoking

By SIERRA JIMENEZ — [email protected]

Rings of cigarette smoke surround the suave mobster or seductive flapper in classic film noir, sparking a cool carcinogenic tobacco stick aesthetic. At this point, most people agree that smoking cigarettes is not conducive to our health at all, but people still go out during their lunch breaks to inhale sweet and addictive smoke into their lungs.

“They have a kind of sexual appeal to them… they’re so cool. Like in Pulp Fiction or old French New Wave movies, they’re still smoking cigarettes, and it’s so sexy and cool,” said a third-year student at UC. Student of Davis. “[But] I’m embarrassed to smoke them because I know how bad they are.

Over the years, despite their known negative health effects, cigarettes have been romanticized in the media as aesthetic, stylish and sexy. Of his origins in the 1920s, the advertising strategy for cigarettes and other smoke-related products such as ashtrays and matches was to sell a sophisticated lifestyle.

Originally advertised for women in the 20th century, women in cigarette advertisements were “ever young and attractive…often exuding sexuality,” a Yale University Online Exhibition noted. Women were not the only targets. The men were also advertised as attractive and successful businessmen or the rugged macho cowboy, a character who became known as “The Marlboro Man” around 1962.

The origins of the sexual attraction of cigarettes are still present despite international tobacco control efforts fairly recent years. The third-year student smokes cigarettes even with her mother’s voice discouraging her growing up: “It’s just a bad habit.” Even she, who grew up in a family with a religious smoker and found it worrying about her health, was influenced by the allure of cigarettes down the line.

“When I got to college and started drinking more and seeing more vapes and cigarettes, I started vaping…I loved those things, I was so addicted, they tasted so good,” she said. “Then I switched to cigarettes just because I started smoking them at parties, and I thought they looked cooler.”

Sooner or later, she realized that smoking had become an act of habit. “My brain would tell me it’s time to smoke a cigarette, but it [started to not] give me anything but makes me really lethargic and lazy.

Now she’s gone from smoking cigarettes for cosmetic reasons to thinking “it might look a little gross and unattractive” so she tries to quit, but after a few drinks it’s easy to justify smoking with “it’s just one night”. she said.

This is the riddle of the cigarette. “There will always be a part of you that rationalizes [smoking cigarettes],” she said. Whether it’s smoking a stogie at a weekend party or just when you’re stressed, “the reason you do it is because it feels good”.

The third-year student was adamant that she would quit at 25 at the latest and that it’s just ‘youth-destroying behavior’ that fuels this habit. “If it’s not a cigarette that’s going to kill me, it’s the hundreds of thousands of pollutants in our air or the asbestos in our homes.”

This student is not alone in her reasoning. Mary Rose, a third-year psychology student, finds that she validates her addiction through her “uneducated opinion” and the voice in the back of her head giving her the green light.

Rose, like many other students, started vaping or smoking cigarettes in a party environment, “hitting” other partygoers with their own vape or cigarette in hand. However, with the addictive properties of nicotine, often this “I’m only going to smoke at parties” mentality, sometimes called social smoking, becomes a daily habit.

“If you smoke a vape all day, and let’s say you wake up at seven and start smoking a ton until 11 at night, then that’s probably worse for you than smoking a cigarette a day. , by me,” Rose said.

Since then, Rose has been “able to recognize that reasoning [she] had to think one was better than the other was just trying to validate [her] unhealthy habits,” but she is still trying to rid herself of her addiction, slowly but surely.

And here is the irony EVERYTHING: Vapes and e-cigarettes that were designed to help adults quit smoking, are now highly addictive for teens and young adults who can’t quit the “vaping life”. With the sleek designs and variety of flavors of the vapes, they say 85% of young e-cigarette users are infusing sweet or minty flavors into their products.

The shift in trends from smoking to vaping has sparked a lot of debate about whether one is better (or worse) for you than the other. Where smoking cigarettes takes a calculated time and place to smoke, vaping is easily accessible and under the radar. Anna Fox, a fourth-year global disease biology student, said she’s seen vaping individuals as young as middle school age take a quick puff within the confines of their shirt collars even in class.

Fox, interested in how vaping affects the immune system, has been working with a doctoral candidate in immunology, Morgan Poindexter, since October 2020 under the supervision of Dr. Ken Pinkerton at Center for Health and the Environment at UC Davis, research on mice exposed to vaping to model the human respiratory system and its effects on fighting infection.

Where there are various studies and hard facts about the long-term consequences of smoking, “vaping is still relatively new, so we don’t have data on long-term risks.” Dr Melamed, said a pulmonologist at UCLA. “It took decades before we fully understood the effects of cigarettes…it could be that the risk and long-term results of e-cigarettes are different from those of traditional cigarettes, but it’s too early to tell. ”

Bradley Kleven, a fifth-year geology student who is adamantly against smoking and vaping, said, “I never really wanted to get into it too much because now I see friends who have devices or who are switched to cigarettes now, and sometimes waking up three, four times in the morning just to tear up the ‘nic-stick’ just because they have to.

Kleven remembers her grandmother, who died at an early age of her habit: “It was kind of my childhood growing up…she was always smoking cigarettes, no matter what she was doing.” His mother warned him: “If you smoke cigarettes, this is what will happen to you”. This parental warning stuck in his mind and to this day he has stayed away from nicotine.

Thanks to precautionary measures for his own health, Kleven is increasingly disgusted and dissuaded from smoking cigarettes and vaping. With the financial commitment of addiction and the health inconvenience, “I just think it’s not really worth it,” he said. “My alcohol bill is already high enough.”

Where some may be drawn to the aesthetics of smoking, others like Kleven admit that his dislike of smoking has come to find it unappealing to others and to himself. “When [people] are always tethered to their devices or have to wake up and take 15 t-bowls a day, that’s not someone I’m looking for,” he said.

The common “it won’t be me” mentality drives many addicts back to their nicotine device, even with these expert facts and the reviews of others in mind. Even if you find clever ways to limit the habit for special occasions, nicotine addiction is real, known, and scientifically proven.

“Young, wild and free”, they say. “It won’t be me,” they say. These excuses to reach for a vape or a cigarette seem endemic to young smokers, but many college students end up depending on them for the rush of inhaling nicotine. Whether it’s smoking cigarettes or vaping, it’s an ironic epidemic of youth.

Written by: Sierra Jimenez — [email protected]

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