I normally don’t make posts of this nature, but it’s Monday, so the /rant/ that’s about to unfold is appropriate. Warning: at the bottom of this entry there is a graphic image that may upset you.

As I was walking home from campus today, I encountered a series of related situations. First, as I was crossing the street I noticed a homeless man sitting on the corner of Guadalupe smoking a cigarette. I didn’t think anything of it at first glance, except I felt bad for the guy. It’s just half past noon and this man is already smoking a cigarette as hundreds of passersby walk past him every hour. When I turned the corner on Nueces, in the narrow alley to my left, I saw a store employee walking down a staircase whilst lighting a cigarette. He was probably taking a lunch break, rather, smoke break. Nothing new, I’ve seen plenty of people take cigarette breaks before. And lastly, as I was about to approach my apartment complex, I ran into my Calculus TA from last Fall. He was busy talking to his friend, but in his hand was a lit cigarette, nearly down to the last puff.

Do you know what all three of these people have in common? “They smoke,” you say. Yes, but that’s not it. It’s that all three of these people are worthy. Their lives have value. They matter. And every life is precious.

Every day, walking to and from class, between meetings, whatever, we’re exposed to hundreds of people we’ve never seen before. Every one of those people have their own lives. They have aspirations, goals to meet, struggles to overcome, a million thoughts clouding their minds. Though their agendas are hidden to us by the mask of simply being a stranger, those people see the same things around them: hundreds of people they’ve never seen before. Do they smoke? Do they drink on weekends? Do they spend hours studying at the library? Do they go to the lake to kayak, or take a dip at Barton Springs? It would take you hours to figure out the answers to those questions. But one thing I can tell you for certain, is statistics.

On average, every day 3,200 young people under the age of 18 start smoking. And each day, 2,100 youth take that first cigarette to the second step, making occasional smoking a daily ritual.

“Oh, but I don’t smoke,” you say. Great! You’re on the right track. You’re going to live, on average, ten more years than a smoker. But wait, what about your friend who smokes? What about that homeless man on Guad? How about your extremely smart TA from last year, or the guy who just got off his second shift? They all have value. And by smoking that cigarette, they’re depreciating their life’s value.

In case you didn’t know, smoking WILL cause cancer. Since I’m no expert on the subject and want to provide you with accurate information, I did some research on the topic. Below is an excerpt from Cancer.org,

Tobacco smoke is made up of more than 7,000 chemicals, including over 70 known to cause cancer (carcinogens). Some of these substances cause heart and lung diseases, too, and all of them can be deadly. You might be surprised to know some of the chemicals found in tobacco smoke include:

  • Cyanide
  • Benzene
  • Formaldehyde
  • Methanol (wood alcohol)
  • Acetylene (the fuel used in welding torches)
  • Ammonia

Tobacco smoke also contains tar and the poison gases carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide. The ingredient that produces the effect people are looking for is nicotine, an addictive drug and one of the harshest chemicals in tobacco smoke.

The tobacco leaves used to make cigarettes and cigars contain radioactive materials; the amount depends on the soil the plants were grown in and fertilizers used. But this means that the smoke contains small amounts of radioactive material, too, which smokers take into their lungs as they inhale. These radioactive particles build up in the lungs, and over time can mean a big dose of radiation. This may be another key factor in smokers getting lung cancer.

Source.

My eyes widened as I read the words “tar,” “poison,” and “radioactive.” When you smoke a tobacco product, that’s what you’re willingly sending down to your lungs. Whether it’s a cigar, cigarette, or hookah, every puff is a step closer down a dark pathway to cancer, heart disease, smoke, lung disease, and even diabetes.

SmokersLungs
Left: a healthy lung. Right: a smoker’s lung. You decide which you prefer to have.

What irks me is why someone would chose to do something so torturous and harmful to their body. This topic makes me extremely upset. My grandmother whom I will love till the end of time, passed away from lung cancer in 2005. I was 10. Try explaining this to a ten year old: why, having never smoked a single cigarette, or tobacco for that matter, she developed lung cancer. Try explaining to a ten year old why a perfectly healthy, beautiful, elegant, intellectual, and wise woman passed away from such a monstrous disease.

Tobacco causes over 5 million deaths per year, and it’s predicted that by 2030, that number will have changed to 8 million. 8 million healthy lives that have been taken by the tobacco industry. While you empty your pockets on packets of cigarettes, the tobacco industry fills their bank account with money.  They’re making a profit on the value of your life.

I can rant for hours on end about this topic, but at the end of the day, it’s up to your free will to do whatever you want. Smoking kills, that’s the bottom line. I’m aware this blog post may have offended some people, but I’m simply stating my opinions, supported by evidence provided by statistics.

To read more on the subject visit the Center for Disease Control.

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