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Follow the Leader and Get Burned
By Mike MacIsaac, Inverness Academy, Inverness, NS

I'd like to be able to say that I'm here to inform the viewing public on a joyous topic, but I was never someone to lie. Summer has come and gone and has left a lifetime of memories, Iraq is long since over-ruled, and we can all smell the faintest scent of a new school year already. An election here in Nova Scotia has passed, and with it comes hopes that all governments can collectively co-exist as a minority. Life seems pretty good on the outside. Yet what sinks my canoe is the fact that life couldn't be any more destructive on the inside of more than one Inverness Academy student. Be warned that if you're one to not have your life jarred with a scary dosage of truth that this article is probably one best left in the recycling bag. (And I'm sure we all recycle.) Now if you're one that appreciates the health and well-being of Inverness' and Canadian young adults alike, then grab your coffee and unsalted crackers now because this just might be one piece of writing that wouldn't be complete without a little comfort. Without any further delay, I shall lead you into the haunting and illegal realm of reality.

We've all saw the little white shack that rests untouched at the entrance to the Inverness Academy, and boy what a sight it is. The scene of a group of under-aged students huddled in a circle with puffs of smoke swirling over their heads really brightens one's day when heading off for another six hour day within the doors of the Academy. Can you detect my sarcasm, by any chance? Everyday be it rain, snow, sleet, hail, or sunshine, you'll always see the same huddle outside before the 8:50 bell, during our 10 minute recess, during every moment of a lunch period that extends almost an hour, and then back once again for an after-school hangout. Try and tell me that they're not addicted and I'll look at you sideways. Don't even expect me to mention any names; be it nothing but a sign of respect. I don't need to mention any names because we're all good with faces around Inverness, Nova Scotia, when we see the same ones day in and day out.

Is this the kind of message someone is trying to send the children who believe everything they see?

The sadder part is that society enjoys this kind of picture.

I'm also not going to pretend like the Academy is the only school with an infamous huddle because every school I've ever come across has a designated place for smokers who shouldn't be smoking not just because they take five minutes off their life with every cigarette, but simply because it's against any law man has ever written. Come to think of it, didn't Dalbrae and Inverness make headlines with that controversial school ranking system a while back? Don't they both let those smoking students prematurely destroy their lives down below the main entrance of the building where everyone can see them? Maybe it's to embarrass them, but I can't see it doing anything but tarnishing a school image. We all live our lives and we've only got one of them so it's no one's responsibility to live anyone's but their own. I just have a few bones to pick and I'm going to pick them while the picking's good.

Bone number one, come on down! Isn't possession of tobacco under the age of 19 illegal? Well tell us all something we don't know! I always used to think that too but it appears as if students seem to have been given a free exemption to the rule. Can anyone explain that one for me? I'd sure love to hear what kind of story they'd create for that one. Possession is illegal and these students possess it. What's that word again? Evidence? I think we've found some. The Act to Protect Young Persons and Other Persons From Tobacco Smoke officially states that peace officers with reasonable and probable grounds to believe that a person under 19 may be in possession of tobacco may search the person and confiscate tobacco in his/her possession. It is against the act to smoke on school grounds so they let them smoke just off the grounds. Why are these smokers receiving a luxury treatment? Teachers and students alike watch them inhale enough hydrogen cyanide to cause gorgeous toxic build-up to disable the cleansing of the lungs. For all you World War buffs out there, hydrogen cyanide was the poison Hitler used in his gas chambers during World War II. Ok, so maybe the fact that we can see them breathing Hitler's gas chamber into them isn't enough to suspect them of possession. We'll hypothesize that we can't see the cigarette from the meeting room that lies tucked in the Administration office. Let's just take a breath of the nicotine in their breath that causes wrinkles in the skin. That's right, not even Oil of Olay can reverse the smooth skin gone wrinkled caused by nicotene. Is the smell of weed not strong enough so that we can smell it, aside from the smell of cigarettes? In the words of Lord Kit Kat, give me a break! Possession is down right illegal and we all know that they've got it hidden in a sneaker or inside a jacket pocket. Maybe your eyes deceive you but careful ears never lie. We hear all the claim to fame by bragging that they've got five grams lined up or that they stole half a pack from God knows where. Let me extend a stern question to all who have come across this: Why don't we do something?

If we witness an armed robbery, our initial reaction will probably never be to walk in and buy your blue cartooned milk and pretending like it never happened. Maybe robbery and possession aren't intertwined, but they're both illegal no matter how you look at it. Take a look in the phone book for the number to our local RCMP detachment. Is seven numbers too many to dial to save the live of a young person? Whoever coined the phrase, "The children are our future," must be turning in their grave at the sight of what we are voluntarily letting those same children suck into their systems. The police sure can't use the excuse that there's no evidence of possession, that's for sure. Now I know I'm asking a lot of questions but somewhere between sanity and insanity, I lost all the answers. Why don't the police take a stroll up to the Academy during their lunch break? If they can take the time to travel to Shining Waters for breakfast, they can no doubt travel two minutes from where they're dispatched from. I'm sure they won't find anyone there once someone reads this article, and God bless it because now it's a win-win situation. You read this, get scared, and stay away from the shack or you read this, don't care, and get captured by authorities. Wait now, what was that? The cops don't take time to drive up to the Academy? Well why not? There's another interesting dilemma. If our reknown mounties just never knew about it before, and I won't infer as if they did or they did not, they know now! Okay, so I understand that my word probably doesn't mean a heck of a lot to some people and that can be understandable, but if you need to learn that I don't lie, learn it the hard way. Bring a quarter to the Academy and find someone who's got an extra cigarette in their pocket and you might be lucky enough to get the price bumped down to a dime if you buy them a milk at lunch time. We should be able to find a Constable to roll on up to the "big school" because the protection of people and respect for the law is always a top priority with any police force across the nation, I'm sure. As a matter of fact, plastered on the official website of the RCMP it is said and I quote, "The Royal Canadian Mounted Police works with all communities to ensure the safety of all Canadians." Keep our Canadian students safe then. Of course, a little investigation into a serious situation wouldn't take up too much precious time.

That was a pretty long bone but there's always room for more. Bone numero deux: Do parents know what their students are doing when they're dropped off at the Academy? Well I've sure never come across a car stopping at the white shack to drop off a child. I've witnessed a child dash for cover when his vehicle pulled back unexpectedly into the Academy parking lot, and that's about it. Just how could this one go undetected by parents? Our select few constant smokers who live with the feel of methanol in their veins must be a sneaky bunch. Methanol, you ask? Well have you ever watched a rocket ship blast off with enough power and pollution to escape the atmosphere of the planet? Methanol is nothing but the fuel used to blast that rocket right off. Parents, or at least the majority of them, drop off students with the secure feeling that their children are safe and educated within the confines of our Academy. It's Inverness, what could ever happen in lil' Inverness? Here's a minor heads up to whomever it may concern. An early grave can be developed in Inverness; just drop in at 12:20 and watch death in living color. Pardon my harshness, but truth can hurt. It's time to get away from the lie that draws a smile and visit the truth that draws a tear. I totally understand the difficulties that come with being a parent. I may not live through them but as with every other teenager, I create them. Maybe not this one, but I create them. No one will ever know what goes on in a son's or daughter's life and I'm not writing this to bash anyone at all what-so-ever. I'm here to open your eyelids a little bit so you can inquire into it a tad. There's never anything wrong with questioning a teenager on an issue because if he or she is innocent, he or she has nothing to hide from you. I can't take a stand but combined, the concerned people can do more than picket and rally and scream behind closed doors. Open those doors and let your voice be heard. One voice might sound foolish but two or more can make a difference. I've taken the liberty of creating one, and now it's time to listen for the next voice in line. No more hide anymore; seek has been bottled up for far too long.

Bone number three is really a stumper in my book. Why would students start to do this to themselves? The kicker on this is that both of the known reasons that teenagers start smoking can easily go undetected by any teacher, parent, police officer, or legal aid. Both known reasons occur daily within closed doors, and those doors must be opened with a vengence because the damage within those doors is irreversible. The first reason is the often underestimated act of peer pressure. Scary, isn't it? The fact that the people closest to a teenager can cause him to fall into the life-stealing habit of smoking. Oh, to be able to discover true friendship again. A friend who needs to have his fellow people around him smoking to pass the time is nothing but your most secretive enemy. You may not think it but that "friend" could be referred to as a warm-blooded murder. Warm-blooded, you ask? Warm-blooded because he believes his intentions are harmless; murderer because he's sliding your life full of opportunity right out of your fingertips. We can all understand the pressures that every junior high to high school student faces in our contradictory world and they are multiplying by the generation. Do you think that mentors such as TV stars help our cause? Not a chance! At least Canada took a step in the right direction by not allowing F1 to hold a car race in Montreal because of its anti-tobacco advertising agreement. It scares me that someone in the federal government is lobbying to change it, however. Musicians? There is a very solid reason that rap is tainting the minds of every listener involved. Some rap brings a message of struggle. The other 99% talks about getting high. Our parents? Smoking was the right thing to do back then. All I have to tell you is to watch any old time movie. Count the chain smokers.

Josh Hartnett's Resume:

"40 Days And 40 Nights," "Black Hawk Down, "Pearl Harbour," and a cigarette in hand.

Seeing the message? It's not one that should be sent.


Woody Allen was once quoted as saying, "I remember when sex was dirty and rolling in the mud was clean fun." The times have since reversed, obviously! Every young person does not truly know the talents that rest within them at the high school level. Are they to be the next Prime Minister of Canada? The next all-time NHL points leader? The next mentor that will make an impact on a life? We as young people don't know that! All peer pressure causes is the smoking aspect, and all the smoking aspect creates is the destruction of those potential talents. It takes away our chance to discover what those talents really are because no chronic smoker will ever be able to lead a country with a cigarette in his mouth, no one addicted to nicotene will ever have the health standards to fulfill a Stanley Cup dream, and nobody who lives and dies by the puff of his or her cigarette will ever set a good example for people looking for direction in their lives.

Take it from me and if you don't really want to, take it from any young adult you'll ever see in this era of time. Peer pressure is definitely out of control. It is a situation that should not dare be as rampant as it is, but it seems it is only getting the attention it deserves lately. The problem is it deserves even more because we've only begun to scratch the surface. People who feel excluded and just trying to fit in would do near anything to be regarded as one of the bunch because they grow weary of living the lonesome life and not being included in mere lunchtime discussions. Next time you doubt my sincerity, watch the first moments of "A Walk to Remember." Those occurrences are now, but never should have been, an everyday occurrence. We've all heard the expressions like friends don't let friends drive drunk or, if you're for humour, friends don't let friends take home ugly men. If those friends fall under the true meaning of friendship being, "the state of being friends and being attached to one person or persons based on mutual esteem and good will," then they'll never view you as an outcast because you value a pumping heart and a good set of lungs. We only get one of those hearts, those longs, and one life to capture all opportunity with. No friend would ever take that good will away from you.

Our second reason that cigarettes become a hot commodity among teenagers stems from multiple other problems, but I shan't get into any of that! Teenagers turn to cigarettes when their lives are failing them; when they become deeply depressed and look to cigarettes to resolve their problems. This could branch off from domestic problems, love problems, educational problems, the list for today's adolescent life is virtually endless. Can this be blamed on the students alone or society as a whole? There really isn't an explanation for this one. We can all admit that life for teenagers is just tougher these days! They are involved with situations no other teenager ever has been, and they have more at their disposal than any other generation in world history. I'm not really prepared to lay blame on the second reason that teenagers turn to cigarettes, but I know one thing. We, as a whole, do not care enough to try and comprehend a solution for this problem. Government funding, which in turn can come from our own tax dollars, has only recently been somewhat used for children and helping whatever problems they may have. Interests that teenagers may have like amateur sports and music receive funding worthy of no mention at all. Ever stop to wonder why more young adults don't turn to writing articles like these instead of taking up smoking? It's because no one really gives a darn to try and direct them in this direction. I know that my interest in journalism, politics, law, astronomy, and these kind of things was created independently; created by no one but me. My peers didn't arouse me with their interest in such things and my parents didn't take me star-gazing or handed me a newspaper. I got into it all by my lil' ol' lonesome because the one thing I was fortunate enough to have been taught was not to smoke. I'm one of the fortunate who listen to the message, "Don't Smoke!" The only problem is that not everyone takes that message to heart. Not everyone, not our own Canadian government here in the greatest country of the world, even cares. I don't need the government to fund for our special little "cool" Canadian ID cards to be taken everywhere. I need the government to protect the lives of the young, guide the minds of the inexperienced, and nourish the souls of the learning.

This article is not intended to stop right here. It's intended to be read and read over by people all across the land; read by the people who want to make a difference and by those who can so that they can unite. This article was created because I have a concern that has been prolonged for far too long. You play with water and you get wet. Play with fire... and you get burned.

Before After

How does smoking look to you now?

FYI: For a detailed and absolutely fantastic presentation on anti-smoking, please visit Tobaccofree.org. It is the most effective, touching, and impactful presentation I have ever come across in all my years as a non-smoker.



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