The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

Follow us on:
Share Youth Communication Follow Represent on Facebook Follow Represent on YouTube Follow Represent on Twitter
Follow Represent on Facebook Follow Represent on YouTube Follow Represent on Twitter
The Kid Who Couldn't Stop Smoking
Priscilla Chan

My father started smoking when he was only 9 years old, the same age I was when I swore I would never smoke in my life. The same age I was while he lay sick for a year in a hospice (that’s where you go when you know you’re going to die).

Growing up, I saw my dad smoking all the time. He tried quitting, but he never could. He just kept lighting up time and again. I didn’t know then what would happen if he continued smoking. If I had, you can be sure that I would have nagged the hell out of him to quit.

My dad was such an awesome guy. We did everything together: went to ballgames, went camping every summer, made models of airplanes and ships, cooked dinner for my mom every night. Then he got sick and on Christmas Day, 1988, he died of lung cancer.

So many kids light up for the first time when they’re 12 or 13 or even younger. And then they never stop. They go through high school, lighting up outside before and after class and in the bathrooms during their free periods. I just don’t understand. Can someone explain to me why smoking is so “cool”? And why, even with all the information we now have about the immense risks involved, kids won’t stop doing it?

I often wonder how much longer my dad would have lived if he hadn’t started smoking when he was a kid. I also wonder if kids who start smoking now realize what could happen to them down the road of life.

That’s why I was glad to hear President Bill Clinton announce that the government is no longer going to stand by and let this happen. In August, he approved a new federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rule that will make it harder for kids to buy cigarettes and for cigarette companies to target kids with their advertising. The president’s goal is to cut tobacco use by children and adolescents in half within seven years.

Smoking Themselves to Death

It’s about time, I say. I know some of you laugh off the seriousness of smoking, but do you know what the statistics are?

image by Carlos Rios

—Every single day, 3,000 young people in the U.S. become regular smokers, and nearly a third of them will die prematurely from diseases related to their smoking.

—Each year, smoking-related diseases claim the lives of 400,000 Americans. That’s more than the number killed by AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, murders, suicides, illegal drugs, and fires combined. Yes, combined!

It gets you thinking, huh?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate smokers. My favorite person in the whole world, my grandfather, smokes two packs a day. I also have several close friends who smoke. I don’t want to give them a hard time, I just want to be sure that everyone who smokes also knows the risks they’re taking. So I do the usual “you know smoking can kill you” bit. They ignore me or tell me that they’ve tried quitting and just couldn’t, and then the conversation is over. I don’t mind. I know that smoking doesn’t kill everyone. But why take the chance?

Quit for the People Who Love You

I also know that quitting is easier said than done. I saw my father go through many attempts. I only wish he had asked me for help. He was afraid of the withdrawal symptoms, as I’m sure a lot of people are. But that in itself should tell you something. If quitting smoking can make you feel bad, imagine what not quitting will do.

And there are ways to make quitting easier. Get a friend to help keep your mind off of the cigarettes. Reward yourself for every month that you’re clean. Don’t think about what you’re losing by quitting. Think of what you’ll be gaining.

And most importantly, the next time you’re tempted to light up, think about the people around you who love you. Your death will hurt them even more than it will hurt you.

Right, Dad?

horizontal rule