The geography of peer pressure

Posted by on Oct 3, 2011 in Friends, Guest Posts | 8 comments

The geography of peer pressure

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You’ve met my friend Sydney Gass in her guest blog. She’s the one who moved from Houston to Vancouver, British Columbia this past summer. I’ve asked her to keep notes on what she finds interesting about her new home, and what strikes her as being uniquely B.C.

One thing thirteen-year-old Sydney said recently started me thinking and I told her to pursue it for me. She was telling me a story about how common it is for teens to smoke in Vancouver. Seems everyone does it. Sydney’s not tempted to start, but she did find it curious that smoking, both tobacco and marijuana, may just be one of the greatest temptations for the kids around her. This wasn’t the case in Houston. Sure, there are kids that smoke in Houston, but, really, they are still the minority. Although, there is evidence that the declines in teen smoking have stalled and we might be seeing a troubling rise again.

Sydney began to wonder if the pull-back on smoking’s sexiness in the States made it less popular among teens. Fortunately, we no longer have smoking ads in our faces all the time. In Vancouver, ads are creeping back into play. And, although marijuana is still illegal in Vancouver, it’s common for the law to turn a blind eye if only small amounts are found. (I certainly say that without a lot of research to back it up, so, please, if I’m in the wrong, comment below!)

There are particular vices that are popular in different areas. Each town, state, city, province has its own filter for what’s in and what’s out. When you move around a lot, you have to get your bearings quickly and know how to respond to whatever pressure you find. See, peer pressure has its own geography.


Here’s Sydney’s story…

Being pressured into doing something you aren’t comfortable with is never an experience you want to have. Consider smoking—you might not feel pressured by this at all, but understand that where I live now, it’s a constant issue.

I’m not just talking about cigarettes. Here in British Columbia, smoking weed is very popular and it’s available everywhere. Even though marijuana is illegal in British Columbia people are expanding their living spaces to grow it!

The other day, I had a conversation with a girl in my dance class that stuck with me. She was telling me that, at her school, there is a designated area called the Smoke Pit, where kids can smoke whatever they have available—tobacco or marijuana. I asked if the teachers knew and she said, “Of course, the Smoke Pit was created by the school for kids.”

She said that kids also disappear into the woods behind the school to smoke anything that they had, and that she often sees kids smoking pot in the hall. Teachers look the other way.

She was really having trouble because her best friend had decided she wanted to smoke. So they headed out to the woods during lunch where other kids were smoking. My dance friend refused to smoke, though, and felt singled out by the other kids who laughed at her and told her she didn’t belong there. She was rejected because she stood up to peer pressure. Good for her, but I know it was hard, and she needed someone to talk to at dance.

I told her the only thing I could think of at the time—“cool is so overrated.” And it is. What’s “in” in Vancouver isn’t “in” in my old hometown. Who decides what’s cool, anyway, and what happens when you move and what had been cool isn’t anymore?

Just make up your mind, as Christians, to never do something that could harm your body or your future with God. “Cool” is too fickle to give away your future for.

Sydney Gass chillaxin'

The conversation at dance class made me want to learn more about my new town. When I got home, I did some research and found that thirty percent of British Columbian school districts don’t ban smoking on school property. And in B.C., seven thousand people take up smoking every year. Ninety percent of them are children and teens.

These are minors who don’t have to hide their habits at school. It’s acceptable. Teachers know and do nothing about it. Smoke pits are being created at nearly every school in B.C. 

Here’s what else I found in my research. Those youth who initiate smoking before the age of fifteen double their risk of lung cancer compared with those who initiate after the age of twenty.  Smoking tobacco causes lung cancer, heart disease, strokes, ulcers, lung disease, premature aging, and so many other things. The side effects of smoking marijuana are just as bad and include—anxiety, paranoia, confusion, hallucinations, dry mouth, tremors, nausea, and addiction. It causes cancer as frequently as tobacco because the same dangerous tars are present. This is a great article that details what smoking pot does to the young adult body and mind.

Arming myself with this knowledge about my new surroundings helped. One day, my mom took my siblings and me to one of the many skate parks here. There were a few boys there that were smoking something clearly homemade. They passed it back and forth in broad daylight in a park full of people, including adults.

This is my new reality. I know now, that wherever you go, there will be temptations. Learn the facts so you can be logical and clear-headed when you’re presented with them and remember that God never changes and his will for you is always the same.

Sydney Gass


Thanks for a great article, Sydney!


  1. I am really a lucky mom. Praying other young ladies will find strength when faced with temptations of this world.

    • You are so blessed, Sonya. You and God make a pretty good team!

  2. Thank you sweet Laura for letting me guest blog again! You’re the sweetest!

    • Thanks for a great article! I enjoyed it.

    • Loved it Sydney!! It was great, and though I knew that alot of people in BC smoked it, I didn’t know the precise facts! It was a great eye opener, and I am sure that your talk with that girl at dance really blessed her and helped her stay strong! You are so encouraging <3

      • Thanks Mango! It sure is an eye opener, I wish I could have talked some more about it with her. Awwww! Thanks! You are so sweet!

  3. Sid
    I am so glad you were able to talk with your friend at dance and tell her smoking does NOT make you cool. I am glad you are so strong and will not fall into those temptations! Love you! Miss you! :)
    PS I like how you said chillaxin in the picture. :)
    I taught you so well.

    • You’re so sweet! Thanks for reading!
      PS Actually that was all Laura’s coolness. :)

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