SMOKIN': I started smoking the summer before my fifteenth birthday when, during leisurely breaks out by the retired cannons, a co-worker at Fort William Henry taught me how to inhale. By the time school started, I was a smokin' girl.
I quit in college when I had a cough that hung around. It seemed cigarettes were bad for you. Now I have two sloganizing children who "just say no" and all that. This summer, during a car breakdown, my kids, my smoking sister and I caught a ride with a Marlboro man. When he lit up, the kids stiffened. My sister shot me one of those if-they-say-anything looks. "Hey," said the smallest cigarette cop, "do you know you lose five minutes of your life for every cigarette you smoke? Do you want to die?"
"No, do you?" hissed my sister.
Point being, I guess, will all this grand sloganeering keep my kids off tobacco? I knew smoking was bad for me. Everyone I know who smokes knows it's bad for them. Heck, the surgeon general first told us that in 1965.
The fastest growing group of smokers are adolescent boys and girls, says Nancy Vuckovic, a researcher for the Teen Lifestyle Project, a study that followed 300 eighth- and ninth-grade girls for three years, primarily examining weight issues. Surprisingly, stress and anxiety, besides the desire to look and act cool, were reasons why girls smoked. Vuckovic says they knew stress was a reason why adult women smoked, but they didn't expect to find that in this age group.
The Arizona Department of Health Services has 25 million tobacco tax bucks to dole out over the next two years for no-smoking education.
Dr. Jack Dillenberg, director of Health Services, who I've seen enjoy a cigar himself, intends to reach pre-teens and expectant mothers by giving $635,000 to the Phoenix Suns and $190,000 to the Arizona Cardinals for anti-smoking campaigns featuring sports giants in personal appearances and radio and TV ads. He might reach a few sperm donors, but I doubt there are a lot of girls and pregnant women sitting around watching football.
Of course the tobacco industry has been as greasy as ever, targeting Dillenberg because of his anti-smoking message. Philip Morris, which tried unsuccessfully to defeat the tobacco tax, is sticking its butt in Arizona's business, saying Dillenberg illegally gave $2,500 to a mental health organization. That kind of meddling ticked off a legislative tobacco tax advisory committee which promptly supported Dillenberg's cozy Arizona Cardinal's idea. As my kids might say, thanks a lot, buttheads.
There's a lot of money around, and these researchers hope it'll go toward prevention and examining issues of why we smoke. I hope I'm not just going to see a bunch of ribbons coming home that say "kissing someone who smokes is like licking a dirty ashtray."
Actually, I liked that one, warriors. We used to say it to each other while shielding the match from the wind.
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