Another
factor necessary to consider before assigning blame for addiction is the
population most at risk for becoming addicted to smoking; it is an affliction
that disproportionately affects the young. The United States’ Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that nearly “9 out of 10
cigarette smokers first tried smoking by age 18, and 99% first tried smoking by
age 26” (Youth). In the United States, more than 3200 youth aged 18 years or
younger smoke their first cigarette each day, and “an additional 2100 youth and
young adults become daily cigarette smokers” (Youth). Social pressures, both
from the tobacco companies’ campaigns and from peer influence, mean that youth
are vulnerable and susceptible to becoming addicted. There is also “evidence
that youth may be sensitive to nicotine and that teens can feel dependent on
nicotine sooner than adults, genetic factors may make quitting smoking more
difficult for young people, and mother’s smoking during pregnancy may increase
the likelihood that her offspring will become regular smokers” (Youth).

Furthermore, depression, anxiety, and stress, all at relatively high rates
among youth, are correlated to smoking (Youth). A policy that punishes smokers
disproportionately harms minors. Adolescents, whose decision-making faculties
are not fully developed, should not bear for the rest of their lives the
consequences of a decision made early in life.

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