by Ashleigh Viveiros, Garden Valley Collegiate, Winkler MB
I think one of my customers, at the store where I work, says it best: "Give me a pack
of those poison sticks," You know what I'm talking about. Smokes, poison sticks,
nicotine fixes ...cigarettes. Whatever you call them, they're still attracting millions of
victims everyday, many of them kids.
According to one web source (http://www.tobaccofreekids.com) in the year 2000 alone,
over 684,627 kids will become regular smokers, and about 219,080 of them will
slowly be killed from their addiction. Cigarettes are the cause for more deaths in a year
than AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, murder, suicides, drugs, and fires...COMBINED!
What's the attraction? Why are so many people continuing their habit, even once they
know that it will, most likely, kill them in the end? Why are so many kids starting this
deadly habit, when the facts are put right before them everyday on TV and in schools?
To try to find out, I asked a few people their thoughts on smoking. The ages ranged
from 12 to 51 years old. Some of them smoke, or have smoked, others haven't. In
general, the non-smokers all gave the same answer, no matter what age they were.
However the smokers seemed to have different views on their habit depending on their
TJ, 13, a non-smoking student, felt that "it's like killing yourself very slowly." His
sentiment is echoed by 17 year old Christine, who said nothing would make her start
smoking, "because I would rather live than die slowly." Dean Harris, a local
pharmacist, looks at smoking in a slightly different light. "Smokers help the economy of
pharmacy when they're sick all the time," he notes.
On the flip side of the coin, avid younger smokers feel that they don't care about the
risks in the distant future, like one 16 year old from GVC. "I don't really care about the
consequences...I don't consider it (quitting), because it's enjoyable." Older addicts
generally feel it is a disgusting habit that they just cannot bring themselves to break.
Like Daryl, 34, who warns younger people thinking of starting, "it's smelly, filthy, dirty,
disgusting...but very hard to give up."
Everyone seems to agree that it is peer pressure that get most kids smoking. "It was
the cool think to do...", said one smoker, "peer-pressure was apart of it..." said
another, or, for the younger smoker, she "just wanted to try it."
Once you figure out why people are starting to smoke, another question arises. Should
they be allowed to smoke around non-smokers in public places?
The recent banning of smoking in restaurants has had some smokers up in arms, and
many non-smokers cheering. Here, it seems, there are a lot of different opinions. One
smoker feels that "every restaurant should have a smoking section." and another
decides that smoking in public places isn't a good thing. Yet another strongly feels that
"it's wrong to tell people what they can and cannot do. It infringes on the rights of the
smoker." Dean Harris disagrees. "It's just like you can't go into a restaurant without
"I think it's great," says one 17 year old, "it makes the place feel cleaner...what about
our rights to a smoke free atmosphere?" Another non-smoker takes a more morbid
stand. "Why let smokers have the rights to kill non-smokers with their filthy habit?" In
fact, the Heart and Stroke Foundation states that second hand smoke kills over 4,000
non-smokers every year. That means that innocent people are being "murdered", in a
sense, killed against their will. Workplaces and restaurants that allow smoking play a
large part in this problem.
When will the world learn that smoking is a stupid habit? Life is short enough without
purposely shaving off 10 years or more. The only thing that will stop the "smoking
plague" is if our government cracks down and says that it is no longer allowed.
It looks as if it is heading that way. With government cutting out many public smoking
places, it's getting harder and harder for smokers to find a place to take a smoke.
Heart and Stroke Foundation
Heart and Stroke Foundation for Kids