RE: Tobacco control & drug abuse--Gateways
I think there is also a psycho-social sense in which cigarette use can be said to be a gateway to other forms of substance abuse. It is typically the first addictive drug used, and in using it, children especially, learn/are required to learn a set of socially "deviant" behaviors. These are the set of behaviors that "civilians" typically assign to "junkies." But "junkies" are not an intrinisic class of persons, they are persons who regularly behaved in certain stereotyped ways. "Junkie" behaviors include such behaviors as stealing in order to pay for addictive substances, lying to authority figures about substance use, putting oneself in physically dangerous situations in order to obtain the desired substance, associating with co-abusers for perhaps no better reasons than that they are co-abusers, etc., etc. Because cigarettes are generally legally available to adults, cheap enough for most adults to purchase from legitimate income, readily available at physically safe locations, because adults don't usually have to authority figures about their use of cigarettes, because adults don't usually have to depend on others for supplies, someone who commenced cigarette smoking as an adult wouldn't have to acquire "junkie" behaviors in order to smoke. Juvenile smokers, on the other hand, are often forced to steal either cigarettes or small sums of money to pay for cigarettes, to lie to parents and other authorities about their smoking, to frequent risky places and associate with reckless persons to obtain cigarettes, to associate to a high degree with other smokers for multitudinous reasons that teens form the kinds of peer groups they form.
This is not to say that adults don't lie about their smoking (either overtly or covertly, as through denial), that they don't steal to support their habits (either literally for lack of income or figuratively because they divert income from other needs). This is not to say that adult smokers don't drive recklessly when they run out of cigarettes, don't seek out convenience stores in dangerous neighborhoods if there are no alternatives. The growing ostracism of smokers often forces them to associate with each other for lack of other willing peers--that's exactly what provided me with the final motivation to quit. Nonetheless, I had already acquired a well-developed set of "junkie" behaviors as an adolescent smoker. Quiting was just as much a struggle to unlearn those behaviors as it was to get through withdrawal symptoms, or to learn new coping strategies. -------------------- Dr. Nathaniel Wander Research Associate University of California San Francisco United States of America