"If I ever catch you smoking a cigarette, you'll wish that you never ever touched it." That's what my parents say all the time, even though they are smokers themselves. They continually harm their bodies every time they light a cigarette.
I lost my grandfather to lung cancer 7 years ago. He was a heavy smoker, and he wouldn't let up even when doctors told him to stop before it came fatal quickly. He was only 65 at the time, and before he passed, he advocated to me and the rest of his grandchildren to never smoke.
But you would think with all of the knowledge that is embedded upon us that no one would want to start a habit as disgusting as this. Sadly, according to the American Lung Association, each day, 6,000 children under 18 years of age smoke their first cigarette. 2,000 of them will become regular smokers; that's 757,000 each year.
New Jersey recently changed the legal smoking age from 18 to 19. This wasn't instituted because politicians were bored. They changed this so high school seniors, whose average age is 18, couldn't legally buy cigarettes.
It's tough for me to realize that smoking is such a harmful thing and that my parents hardly care. They have tried to stop, but they have had minimal success, only being able to go for a few months at a time.
It seems as if they are oblivious to the fact that they are slowly hurting themselves for something that can be stopped with will power and help from aides such as Nicoderm and products like it. According to the American Lung Association, if current tobacco use patterns stay, as they are, an estimated 6.4 million current children smokers will eventually die prematurely from a smoking-related disease.
From the smokers that I talk to about this issue, I always get the same response to a few questions. The first question I ask is "why did you start?" I usually get something along the lines of "everyone else was doing it, it looked cool, or I was just curious." These responses can come from people older than my parents to friends from school.
Now, if everyone started jumping off a bridge and got hurt, but said it were extremely fun, would you do it also? I don't want to sound preachy, but to me, it seems like the only reason they started to smoke was because of peer pressure.
22% of high school students surveyed by the American Lung Association were current smokers. In 2004, 11.7 percent of middle school students smoked.
"I would never want to hurt my body by smoking. It's such a bad habit and I'm glad I never got sucked into it," said Vic Pellegrini, 23, of Hillsboro. He added that it bothers him when he sees people smoke and he tries to stay away from people when they do so.
But the health concerns don't just end at those that smoke the cigarettes. Those around the smokers are affected too. According to the American Lung Association, youth who have two parents who smoke are more than twice as likely as youth without smoking parents to become smokers. More than 6 million youth (23 percent) are exposed to secondhand smoke daily, and more than 10 million youth aged 12 to 18 live in a household with at least one smoker.
My parents try not to smoke near me so I won't inhale as much of the products from cigarettes. They stay either near a window, a fan, or smoke outside. However, they do smoke inside the car.
Another question that can be asked is how do underage smokers get their cigarettes? One answer could be they steal them from their parents or their parents give them cigarettes. They could have friends who can legally buy cigarettes purchase the cigarettes for them. But if their parents are not smokers, and they don't have any friends who can buy them, how do they get them? Surprisingly, the answer comes from the stores we buy in. According to the American Lung Association, among middle school students who were current smokers, 71% reported never being asked to show proof of age when buying cigarettes in a store, and 66% were not refused purchase because of their age.
No matter how you look at cigarettes, smoking underage is wrong. The fact that our peers are illegally acquiring cigarettes is scary, because it shows how smart they can be. Teen smoking is a problem that must be stopped at its source, and if we don't do something soon, this problem can grow to an even bigger issue than it is now.
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