I was an eyes-only sky gazer till my 30s. If a scope is lousy, and someone quits because of that, they probably weren't all that interested. What about the scores of people who have saved and scrimped for their first scope, or spent months grinding their first mirror from mail order? A hobby of any sort starts with a keen curiosity, a bit of obsession and perseverance.
Cheap or small scopes are not the hobby killers. Anyone who is truly interested in astronomy will find a way.
Light pollution would have a far greater effect on the current generation. How can they develop an interest at all if they can't see?
This sentence says it all. Interest is the main driver and the reason why some of us that have been in this avocation for close to 55 years are still at it. A simple small telescope was not a hobby killer for us because our interest surpassed the shortcomings of the telescope. Obsession and perseverance ran high too. I remember waking up sometime near 4:00am to see Saturn for the first time in my life through the 60mm f/11 with .965" eyepieces. To me it was breathtaking. Later on at school I kept yawning all day but it was worth it. Most of us had similar experiences.