I have always been a huge nerd, which is why I pretty much didn't even look at a cigarette until I was like 22—and even then it was just to deliver some morally superior sniffs about how some of us don't have to suck on a stanky Duraflame log just to have a good time. Some of us have ancient Greek city-states to construct in our dorm rooms, thankyouverymuch.
I'm 30 now, and I'm still too much of an awkward dork to look convincing with a cigarette in my hand. But even though all the Virginia Slims in the world (that's a cool brand, right??) couldn't have made me cool, a new study has found that smoking is cooler than ever. Popularity is strongly corollated with cigarette smoking among high school students. The more popular the student, the earlier they probably started smoking.
The teens were asked if they smoked cigarettes, how often they smoked, how many students their age they thought smoked, how their close friends felt about smoking and who their five closest friends were at school.
The students named the most as a friend were deemed the most popular. Researchers found that the popular kids were more likely to start smoking earlier than those who were less popular. Students who became smokers were more likely to be friends with other smokers, and those who thought their friends were smoking were more likely to smoke, even if that assumption was wrong.
"Popularity is a strong predictor of smoking," said one of the study's authors. "We haven't done enough to make it cool not to smoke." Good luck with that, society—smoking is transgressive, it's bad, it's grown-up, it's dangerous. Of course insecure teenagers have a boner for it. And as far as the popular kids are concerned, there's nothing less cool than some dorky old non-smoker using an ad campaign to convince them that something isn't cool when it's very obviously cool. Even I know that, and I'm a nerd.