To The Editor:
As far back as I can remember, whenever my father was in the room there was a cloud of smoke surrounding him. As a child, yes I thought it was gross and stinky, but I also thought my father is the smartest man alive so it must not be bad. As the years went on my father continued to smoke heavily.
I was the youngest of three girls. I grew up in an affluent part of Massena, and we lived a middle class lifestyle. As a fly on the wall during my sisters teen years, I watched their mistakes and swore I would never follow in their footsteps.
I remember when I learned that my middle sister was smoking, I would sneak into her bedroom and break all of her hidden cigarettes in half. I was so upset with her that she had made such a poor decision. Then I learned that my oldest sister was a smoker too. She was nearly five years my senior, and I totally looked up to her, so now I had a different take on the situation.
In no time flat I would see the kids at school smoke, then my friends started smoking, then at the tender age of 14 years old, I found myself totally addicted to cigarettes. As always it started out that I wanted to be cool, or a rebel, let me tell you it did not take long at all before I was completely addicted and up to smoking a pack of cigarettes every day. By the time I started college I was up to two packs a day and by the time I graduated college I was up to three packs a day.
My habit had become part of my persona, my friends and family called me the Marlboro girl. I refused to go anywhere that I was not allowed to smoke. I struggled getting through a class without taking a cigarette break. It had become such a huge part of my lifestyle at this point. Talk about an addiction.
Nearly nine years into this disgusting habit of now smoking three packs of cigarettes a day, I found myself struggling to breathe at times. I was only 23 years old, what was happening. This problem wasnt going away, in fact it was getting worse, wheezing and coughing constantly and not able to catch my breath. I was terrified. Thankfully I was smart enough to know that smoking was causing this respiratory distress that just wasnt going away. Gasp and fight to take your next breath is absolutely terrifying, and I am so grateful that it happened to me. It opened up my eyes that I was slowly killing myself and I didnt want to continue with this struggle. I decided to quit.
Thankfully around the same timeframe, my father too decided to quit smoking. My sisters as well caught on and quit. We were now a smoke free family, we can live happily ever after.
About 5 years later, in our smoke free bliss, my father was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. He fought the good fight, but he lost his battle nearly 3 years ago. If he never smoked, he would most likely still be here today. Really think about that. If you smoke and you have children, you have a higher chance of not only your children smoking, but your children will have to mourn your untimely death.
Im now 34, and still smoke-free after 11 years. Im so happy that I decided to quit and was one of the lucky ones that has never looked back, but I must say that smoking at such a young age robbed me of many things during those nine years. If youve been addicted to nicotine and tried to quit, you understand the power of this addiction. No child should ever become addicted to nicotine, and it is important that we think about ways that we can prevent this from happening.
Personally, I find it upsetting to see the new products that are coming out and being displayed in stores. Selling candy flavored tobacco products in stores that kids go to everyday makes me question the motives and ethics of the tobacco industry. In some stores these products are displayed on the counter, deliberately placed at the eye level of a child.
I have learned a great deal about the things that influence youth to use tobacco. As illustrated in my personal experience, having parents or peers who use tobacco is certainly a factor. However, the way tobacco products are packaged and sold also plays a major role in enticing youth and young adults to experiment with them.
I know the dangers that these products pose and the strategies being used, and it is important that we speak up and do something about it.
Taylor P. Harper