Max Cavallaro (2004) Smoking Initiation: A Rite of Passion

The first cigarette is tried before a physical addiction is established, and is therefore subject to a different motivation than any cigarette smoked thereafter. Most studies regarding cigarette smoking focus on why people smoke and how they quit or stay addicted. This research investigated:

1) What may motivate one to ever try a cigarette in the first place. What happens afterwards can be argued as biological or psychological and may be subject to genetics or the environment. That first cigarette is not a chemical or biological addiction, and therefore its motivation must lie elsewhere.

2) How the themes of mythical stories can be used to understand the themes of human motivation. Psychoanalysis has often used myth to explain and understand unconscious dynamics of behavior and motivation. Here the myth of Prometheus is examined to see what themes it expresses and if those themes are used to further understand the motivation of smoking the first cigarette. The manifest content of first cigarette stories is used as a narrative to try and understand this particular event. These narratives can be viewed as personal myth, and they can be compared with a classic mythological story that is understood as containing underlying or unconscious motives of humanity.

3) The study uses the myth of Prometheus to analyze complementary and compatible symbols and themes in smoking narratives in an attempt to comprehend the conscious and unconscious mechanisms operating in the phenomenon of “smoking initiation”. A control factor of “drinking initiation” is compared to the smoking narratives to illustrate the particular significance of the smoking event. The study found that the Promethean myth is able to offer another or deeper explanation of why adolescents smoke their first cigarette. It is offered that the symbolism of smoking and fire connects to the desires and passions of the adolescents, which harkens back to their primal feeling states.