Adolescents’ perceptions of the onset of their cigarette smoking behaviour and the factors that maintain their habit
Tobacco smoking remains the largest preventable behavioural cause of chronic disease and premature death. Many people continue to engage in this behaviour, despite the well-known negative health consequences. The most common form of smoking is cigarette smoking, which is a type of risk-taking behaviour that is becoming increasingly prevalent among adolescents. Cigarette consumption rates are increasing among adolescents in various parts of the world; each year nearly a million adolescents start to smoke. This behaviour, if continued into adulthood, may lead to a range of debilitating diseases of lifestyle. In an effort to contribute to the success of adolescent smoking cessation programmes in South Africa, this study looks at the factors that motivate and support adolescents‘ decision to start and continue with their cigarette smoking behaviour. Utilising a qualitative framework, individual interviews were carried out with six boys and six girls from an English-medium high school within Cape Town. The participants‘ ages ranged from 16-18 years. Through the use of thematic analysis, the results show that adolescents smoking are not determined by knowledge, beliefs and attitudes alone, but by social and environmental influences as well. Risk and protective factors for adolescent smoking was identified on a psychological, physical, social/environmental level cross-cuttingly on the different stages of the smoking cycle. Of importance was the adolescents‘ common misinterpretation of 'smoking out of habit‘ for 'addiction‘. Essentially, this study focused on the importance of adolescent health and how it is affected by factors associated with tobacco use in South Africa. Therefore, a key recommendation of this study would be for these underlying risk and protective factors needs to be integrated to strengthen current smoking cessation programmes.