The Westerly Sun’s Jan. 28 reprinted editorial, “It’s time we got the message about smoking,” makes me wonder where the expression “kicking a dead horse” comes from. Surgeon General Luther Terry proclaimed in 1964 that smoking is hazardous to your health. Now, 50 years later, we have 43.8 million smokers who don’t get it, feeling OK about not just voluntarily engaging in logic-defying behavior — according to the American Cancer Society, smoking kills more Americans than alcohol, car accidents, suicide, AIDS, homicide and illegal drugs combined — but paying serious dollars to do so. Welcome to bizarro world.
First, Aristotle over-reached when he proclaimed, “Man is a rational animal.” Maybe there was no smoking in ancient Greece, but if there were, we have to wonder what exactly he was smoking since paying to kill yourself disqualifies 43.8 million of us from the rational title.
Second, we’re all unique in our own way, but fundamentally we’re all the same, absolutely dependent on life providing clean water and fresh air that should really unite us in singular purpose to protect these sources that no life can exist without. But youth live in a bubble, high on immaturity and defiance, while short on vision and experience, viewing a world where only grownups can smoke. Immature, defiant, rebellious and yearning to break free of the chains of youth, our youngsters are the “GOTCHA” crowd that the tobacco companies love trying to entice early (candy-flavored cigarettes), addict them, then move them on to more “mature and sophisticated” tobacco products. They know their 43.8 million customers won’t last long, with 443,000 smoking related deaths every year, according to the Center for Disease Control, which, earlier this month, said that 16 million Americans are now living with smoking-related illnesses.
Third, we know that every day 3,300 kids light up a tobacco product for the first time, defiantly trying to cross the bridge to adulthood but burning the bridge to their healthy, youthful innocence instead.
Finally, we have to applaud New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and President Obama’s goal, recently articulated in his State of the Union address, to bring high-quality universal pre-K educational opportunity to everyone, which would provide the great unmentioned benefit of getting to all our 4-year-olds before the tobacco companies do.