Being Practical, Not Judgmental

Many of the kids I volunteers with smoke. I know, it’s a nasty habit and the bane of my do-gooder existence. Rather than simply telling them to quit like other adults (because they don’t listen), I decided to talk with them on how to minimize the impact of cigarette smoke on themselves and those around them using the tips from They are oblivious as youth are to problems they cause regarding the negative impact of second-hand smoke.

Some teachers I know show these horrible films featuring people with throat or mouth cancer. You have seen these on TV. The films are longer and go into more detail scaring the heck out of the kids. This is just what they are meant to do. It is like showing graphic scenes of car accidents causes by drunk teenage drivers. I hate to be in the position of being judgmental, but the statistics tell the story. It is better to see them on the screen than to read about them in an article.

I focus on health problems for all ages. Otherwise, they just avoid people and think they are invulnerable. Sure, it takes years for lung cancer to develop, but somehow, I feel responsible if they don’t know the truth and quit. Some do and some don’t. I know who smokes in secret as I can smell it in their hair and on their clothing. No doubt their parents can also tell. They would complain if they thought it would be effective. I am a volunteer and not their teacher or supervisor. It is going to be an on-going topic that we will continually discuss.

I have asked some of the kids to initiate the conversation by discussing why they started, why they do it, and if they expect to go through life unscathed. The talks are very revealing. I think kids listen to their peers more than adults in positions of authority. We discuss local laws that ban smoking in public places and the irony of smoking up to the late twentieth century in airplanes, hospitals, libraries, theaters, and restaurants. The only place automatically off limits was a school. No wonder the teens are skeptical.

Many who don’t smoke think there is a great conspiracy going on with big tobacco, and they are right. Politicians hid the truth for so long to avoid losing these companies’ support. Talk about hypocrisy. It is a great history and ethics lesson. The kids know that they are tempted in so many ways and they are weak in spirit. They want to fit in the crowd, look sophisticated, appeal to the opposite sex, or just have fun in a group. When smoking becomes addictive and private, we have to start worrying.

I never regret harping at the kids and making smoking a central topic of debate and discussion. They actually find it compelling and are willing to listen. If I can just change one mind….

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