CHAPTER SEVEN: Case Study: Suicide, Smoking and the Search for the Unsticky Cigarette
31. The epidemics of suicide and smoking are complex and largely unconscious contagions with far more subtle undercurrents at work. One explanation beyond rationale is that as humans we get permission to act by seeing others engage in deviant acts. When we engage in dangerous or reckless behavior of any kind, how much of our decision to do so is conscious versus unintentional?
32. Are you a smoker or have you ever been? What do you think makes some people pick up the habit while others steer clear of it their whole lives?
33. What are your opinions on the nature vs. nurture debate? Do you agree that environment plays a bigger role in shaping and influence children than genetics and personality?
34. "Telling teenagers about the health risks of smoking -- it will make you wrinkled! It will make you impotent! It will make you dead! -- is useless," says Judith Harris. Is this morally incomprehensible advice or the sad truth? What do you think about the psychologist David Rowe's theory that "the role of parents is a passive -- providing a set of genes at loci relevant to smoking risk, but not socially influencing their offspring?" Should parents spend more time trying to monitor and shape their children's peer group than correcting and disciplining them in the home?
35. Do you agree that instead of fighting experimentation, which is a natural and unavoidable fate of growing up, we should be rather focusing on diminishing the consequences of that experimentation? For example instead of forbidding your child from consuming alcohol when he goes out or proselytizing about the dangers of under-age drinking, should parents rather ensure there is a sober, designated driver at one of their parties? What other examples can you come up with based in this approach.