Killing those you love

Walking around MU’s campus, I’m always shocked at how many students I see smoking. All public places in Columbia are smoke-free, which is very nice, and there is some movement for a smoke-free campus, but as of now, anyone can smoke outside. I would guess that somewhere between 15 and 30 percent of students smoke, which I think is incredibly high.

When I see someone middle-age or older smoking, it’s not nearly as jarring. I know that decades ago smoking was much more prevalent and was perceived as classy; what’s more, people didn’t know it would kill you. So I can understand someone 40 or older smoking, because they may have been smoking for a long time, having not known its effects when they started, and are now unable to quit because it’s so addicting.

But that’s why I can’t understand it when I see students – or really anyone under age 30 – smoking. I can’t fathom picking up a habit you know will kill you. Some people might argue that everyone dies eventually, but you don’t have to die that early or that painfully, and you don’t have to destroy your body in the process. Some also argue that it relieves stress, but there are plenty of other, non-fatal ways to relieve stress. Some also say they only smoke socially or while drinking, but it’s pretty common knowledge that you can damage your lungs or become addicted with only a few cigarettes.

Plus, smoking isn’t cool or glamorous anymore. No one can really blame peer pressure if they’re smoking as a teenager. Even though surgeon general warnings on ads only say that cigarettes “contain carbon monoxide,” it’s widely know that they cause cancer. Plus, smoking wrinkles your skin, yellows your teeth, inhibits your cardiovascular ability and makes your hair, clothes and nails stink.

But if all that’s not enough reason not to smoke, what about all the people around you? Smokers are potentially giving cancer to everyone else in the room whenever they smoke. Parents endanger their kids, teenagers endanger their friends, people at restaurants endanger other diners, pregnant women endanger their babies. I once worked with a smoker who was six months pregnant, and it broke my heart to think about what she was doing to her unborn child.

I also read recently that more than one-tenth of lung cancer cases (and nearly one-fifth of those in women) occur in non-smokers. Although there may be things like asbestos and pollution at play, chances are these individuals were exposed to second-hand smoke throughout their lives. Which is why I have to wonder, even if smokers don’t care about their own bodies enough to not smoke, how can they do it around people they care about? Is there no guilt for all the damage being inflicted? Not only are you gradually killing yourself, but you’re killing those you love and people you don’t even know, too.

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