I just spent the weekend volunteering at a youth conference that focused on drugs and addiction. We had a low student turnout. (surprised?) In preparing for the conference, high school students from several communities in the area were invited, as we tried to explain to youth the dangers of drugs and alcohol.
During the convention, I noticed a student making several trips outdoors. On this particular October day, the weather was cold and damp, but nonetheless, this student kept leaving the building, half dressed, and in a hurry. The student was in grade nine, and probably around 15 years old. When I took the time to follow him out, I noticed that he had been going out for smoke breaks.
I waited for him to come in, and upon that moment, I engaged in a conversation with him. He was a very polite person, and very easy to talk to. Of course, our conversation eventually got to his smoking habit. I asked him how much he smoked, and his reply was that he smoked whatever his mom provided him each morning. I was mortified. In this day and age, with what we know about the dangers of smoking, some mother was giving her 15 year old cigarettes. He said that he figured that he smoked around a pack a day, and that he really enjoyed smoking. The student went on to explain how cool he felt as he smoked. I had to say something. I asked him how it could be cool that all the other students were inside, sitting in the cafeteria in conversations, while he was standing out in the cold, smoking. He defended his statement by saying that where he came from, smoking was cool. Then he went on to say that he could quit anytime, whenever he figured it was no longer cool, and that even if he got Cancer, big deal. (Did he figure he could take a few Tylenol and the cancer would go away like a bad headache)
Maybe we are sugar coating reality for students. Maybe students should see the effects of cancer more clearly and graphically. I know those gross posters with the kids with rotten teeth and exposed stomachs do nothing to stop teen smoking. I also know that the government’s latest attempt to curve smoking among teens, the ‘Tobacco Wall’ is nothing more than our tax dollars being wasted yet again. The answer lies in our government actually stopping the sale of tobacco and cigarettes….but that will never happen.
I went on to talk to the teen, and how I never smoked a day in my life, but I have still remained ‘cool’ to myself. His reaction? “You are cool?” Thanks a lot kid.