Butt Out!
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 age.

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 shoes on."

"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.

Related Links

Heart and Stroke Foundation
Heart and Stroke Foundation for Kids

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