Together, Let’s say “NO” to smoking!

| Paola D’Amico-Ellis, Senior SN, SNO/PR WCCC |

I used to smoke. I admit it. I started when I was 16 because, I hate to say it, was the “cool” thing to do. I remember my body hating it in the beginning. But, in spite of its “not too subliminal” signs of refusal like headaches and nausea, I continued smoking in the name of “coolness” and sociality till… I felt the real need for a cigarette. Before I knew it, I was hooked.

It is funny but, when I think back, NOT starting to smoke was never a goal in my adolescence. My parents smoked, my relatives smoked, my friends smoked, even my movie idols smoked. And they did it everywhere, in the house, in the car, in restaurants … For me, it was just a matter of getting old enough to start smoking. And, even though I was aware of the health warning sentence printed towards the bottom on my mom’s pack of cigarettes, those words, although bolded, just did not seem to measure up to reality…a reality where most people laughed, drove, played and yes, even ate with a cigarette between their fingers.

Have you ever heard of “Ignorance of the law excuses no one” or “not knowing the law is harmful”? Well, they are both legal principles that hold a person liable for his/her unlawful actions even though they did not know they were breaking the law in first place. In a way, I think our body resembles the law. If you think about it, our body does not really care whether or not we know how badly smoking (or anything else we do to it for that matter) really is. It just takes us to trial, when it’s time.

Ignorance, it is not an excuse for our body just as it is not for the law. Funny huh?

Now, what if you were breaking the law knowingly and you got caught? You had better start looking for a good lawyer, right? But, when our body catches up to us and brings us to trial, there are no lawyers that can help … only doctors, nurses and $130 billion of yearly medical costs. And, if you are one of those 5.6 million children, alive today that will ultimately die early from smoking – if we do not do more to reduce current smoking rates – (Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health, 2015), not even the best doctor or nurse out there will be able to help you.

As sad as my last statement was, it spells a solution to the main problem: reducing the current smoking rate. How do we do that? Well, first of all, let’s start with an admission: smoking is not cool and, now more than ever, we KNOW (sorry but we cannot hide behind ignorance any longer) that it kills you and the people around you.

We have finally won the war against the tobacco industry which “has been encouraging children to start smoking” since the birth of the cigarette. The “warning” is out, and it is not just a short sentence printed in bold at the bottom of a cigarette pack. The “warning” spells 20 million Americans dead because of smoking since 1964. The “warning” spells 2.5 million nonsmoking Americans dead because of secondhand smoke since 1964. Today the health warning does measure up to reality, doesn’t it?

So, if you are not a smoker, simply don’t start. Look at the numbers and data out there about the harmful effects of smoking. Make an educated decision about your health. Speak to a nurse or doctor about what it is driving you towards a cigarette BEFORE you get addicted. Be smart. Do not give in. There are other, less harmful ways to be social or to deal with stress. “Every day 3,200 youths under 18 smoke their first cigarette”… do not be one of them!

If you are already a smoker, know that you are not alone and you can quit. Talk to your doctor, your nurse. There is a way out, unlike many diseases and cancers that smoking causes. I did it, you can do it. There are many affordable smoking cessation treatments in your area just waiting for you to reach out. Also protect, by not smoking, the people you love (that is what drove me to quit, on a personal note). Find strength by being a good example for your friends, sister, brother and children. Show them, through your own behavior, that smoking is not a normal path to go down but simply a path that will bring you down… “when” and not “if.”

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