Teenage smokers ignore warnings, common sense

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As seen in the March 7 print issue

Jackson Prince, sports editor

“SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, And May Complicate Pregnancy.”

In 1985, the Surgeon General warned the American public of the specific dangers cigarettes pose. Since then, our country has attempted to make smoking less of an American standard, as powerful non-smoking campaigns have tried to push the message through time and time again.

Yet we’re not listening.

Our educational system has generally ensured that we were given sufficient knowledge of the risks involved in each inhale of cigarette smoke.

Yet we’re not taking it.

The message has yet to find its way to the minds of many teenagers today. It seems that these attempts to end teenage-smoking may be futile because telling us that we’re going to die if we continue smoking goes in one ear and out the other.

Like the cigarettes from which we are persuaded to avoid, the warnings have been sucked in, and then puffed back out.

According to the FDA, about 10 million teenagers are open to or already smoking cigarettes. These kids can be found across the country, from Nowhere, Okla., to Beverly Hills, Calif.

How is it that our generation now chooses to ignore one of the fundamental lessons of our childhood?

Smoking is bad for you.

DARE was a part of our lives when we were little, as the group attempted to instill its message at an early enough age that it would stick with us for the remainder of our lives. Perhaps we were too young to fully grasp the meaning of a cigarette.

A cigarette is more than just tobacco and rat poison. It’s peer pressure. It’s “fitting in.” It’s “I swear, I won’t do it again” and then failing to abide by the promise. It’s the loss of old friends and the gain of new ones, toxic ones. It’s disregarding the fact that we might have to think about other people when we’re older, people like our own children and grandchildren. And it’s the acceptance of a selfish and unattractive lifestyle.

It’s stupid. It’s just so stupid.

At Beverly, the solution (or a major portion of it) was supposed to be a class called “Health,” a semester-long course, covering the bases of safe sex, drug and alcohol use and cigarettes.

For current freshmen, however, the class is no longer a graduation requirement and thus, will not reach the entirety of the student population. Incoming freshman will enter high school unprepared to face the pressure of the puff.

Our society is sort of stuck in a situation more severe than that of our parents. They smoked to be like celebrities, who were seen smoking in movies, TV shows and advertisements. They also modeled the behavior of their own parents, for whom smoking wasn’t scary until well after their teenage years. Cigarettes were glamorous, that is until they signified a death sentence, and this inspired many adult smokers to change their ways.

Today, there is no easy answer to why 23 percent of us use tobacco products.

At a recent party, when offered a cigarette, I asked two fellow Normans about what they got from smoking. The first enjoyed the light-headedness of the experience, and the second said that she didn’t know what she liked about it. Others often point to cigarettes as a way to keep a diet.

Our generation, now at the age of a false sense of immortality, is taking this ignorance to a new extreme. Unlike our parents, who were simply rebelling against scientists’ relatively new findings, we are ignoring accepted facts.

If this scenario occurred in any other aspect of life, our generation would feel incredibly dumb. What morons continue to do something that is bound to kill them at an early age? Unlike base-jumping or highline tightrope walking, there is no adrenaline rush or heroism to smoking a cigarette. The thrill of puffing smoke isn’t quite worth the loss of a few decades of living.

People should only put their lives at risk for something that they wouldn’t be able to live without. Increasing one’s chance of dying early, as a medically proven fact, without even knowing what they like about the hazardous experience is, in short, really stupid.

“SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, And May Complicate Pregnancy.”

There it is, 30 years later, still clearly labeled on the pack: the real cost of cigarettes.

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