I don’t think I will ever understand why people start smoking cigarettes. In generations past, people did not know the consequences, or didn’t find out until it was too late. But every college student today who was not raised under some rock knows exactly what smoking can do to a person. We’ve had the horrific facts indoctrinated into our heads since elementary school. We’ve seen the pictures, we’ve had the health classes, we’ve been forced to make posters and write essays. The issue can’t possibly be ignorance.
What’s more, we’ve seen the effects in our own lives. Who can honestly say that he doesn’t know anyone who has died of cancer, or is dying of cancer right now? We’ve made the hospital and funeral parlor visits; we’ve cried plenty of tears sponsored by Big Tobacco. What kind of a holocaust does it take to make people decline a cigarette?
The oddest thing to me is the recent discovery that my own friends are starting to smoke. My group of friends was never the crowd smoking in the bathroom, using the toilet seat as an ashtray, in high school. So the only real relevance the huge emphasis on the negative effects of smoking had on me related to people I could not stop: The Adults. It was always an epidemic past my point of maturity. I’ve got to say, it sucks to watch people you love killing themselves and know that, at this point in their addiction, nothing you can say will make them stop. I was always the kid, and they were the adults, rendering me powerless.
Suddenly, since entering college, I’ve realized that some friends have started smoking. And, even though I’m an adult this time, I still feel helpless. What can you say? They sat next you in health class, they know the drill. I feel like, after stating my disapproval once and hearing them acknowledge it, I’ve done all I can do. They are perfectly aware of the consequences of smoking, so that if I continue to tell them, all I am really accomplishing is putting a rift between us by being the nagging friend. Having said my piece, and thrown in the occasional disappointed look, I can only be there for them when the hospital visits start.
I guess because cigarettes lack the potential for immediate danger – too many cigarettes in one sitting won’t land you in an ambulance – they don’t seem as threatening. And, as young adults, we do tend to focus on the present. Maybe at the offer of drugs or an alcoholic beverage some of us might stop and consider the risks. But generally speaking, we don’t like to look beyond this semester, never mind past senior year or into the distant future. It’s hard to think about that future breathing tube when concentrating on right now is so enticing, and so much more welcoming.
I can theorize and make all the excuses I want for our generation, but the fact remains that we’re smoking, and we’ll probably die from it, or at the very least have some serious medical problems. And we know better. You’re first-grade-self could tell you what to do.