America's Teenagers--Myths and Realities: Media Images, Schooling, and the Social Costs of Careless Indifference

By Sharon L. Nichols; Thomas L. Good | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
Tobacco, Alcohol, Drugs, and Teens

To the dismay of cancer surgeons everywhere, the traits Hollywood chose to attribute to smokers were independence, beauty and determination.

—I. Gately, 2001 1

The overdiagnosis of learning and behavioral disorders in ever-younger children has gone so far that even psychologists now joke that Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, were they alive today, would be on Ritalin and in special education for hyperactivity.

—K. Zernike, 2001 2

Based on its magazine advertising schedule in 1999, Marlboro, the favorite brand of teens, reached 89 percent of teens 5 times or more.

—American Legacy Foundation 3

Youth take risks that most would not take as adults: 4 riding roller coasters, driving cars as fast as they can go, or riding bikes and skateboards through dangerous obstacles. Smoking, drinking alcohol, and taking drugs are especially popular forms of risk for teens, in part because they are forbidden activities reserved only for adults and in part because of their effects. Because smoking and drinking are only for adults is sufficient reason to encourage many teens to sample them: If it's taboo, it must be good. 5

Adolescent risk taking is widely recognized as a behavior by which teens assert their independence from the constraints of their childhood years. Young children eagerly obey their parents' commands not to smoke or drink simply because they want to please them. 6 In contrast, adolescents strive to communicate that they are their own persons and deserve adults'

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