And they weren’t happy about it.
Not because the boy was a jerk or he was practically failing out of high school.
They didn’t like him because he smoked.
“Ew,” one teen said, scrunching up her face. “That’s just disgusting.”
We’ve come along way from the days when smoking was considered cool. In fact, smoking rates are down from a generation ago, thanks to awareness about the health risks, a ban on tobacco ads broadcast on TV and government-mandated restrictions of smoking in public spaces.
According to Dr. Cynthia J. Goto, spokesperson for the Hawaii Tobacco Quitline, smoking has decreased dramatically over the past decade.
But despite what seems like common knowledge that smoking is bad for you — heck, it’s even printed on the packaging! — there are still an estimated 24.8 million men and 21.1 million women in the United States who smoke, according to the American Heart Association.
In Hawaii alone, tobacco use is the state’s No. 1 cause of preventable death and it costs the state $104 million a year in health care costs to treat just female smokers suffering from tobacco-related illnesses. And that’s despite a statewide ban of smoking in all public places, enacted in November 2006.
So why do people still smoke?
Well, most times people start when they’re young — and dumb. Nearly 80 percent of all adult smokers became regular smokers by the age of 18, reported the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, with 90 percent doing so before exiting their teen years.
According to folks who responded to my callout on Facebook and Twitter, some said they smoke when they’re stressed, others when they’re bored and a lot — more than I had expected — when they’re drinking. (Something about a buzz.) I know one person who used to smoke when he drove home late a night just to keep him awake. Go figure.
But in all, no one really wants to smoke. They may miss it — as many of my friends who quit do — but they know it’s better to stay away from the cancer sticks.
Not that’s it’s that easy to quit.
Some used the patch; others tried to quit cold turkey. I know a few who tried using electric cigarettes to no avail.
The hardest part about quitting smoking, said Goto, is changing your routine.
“For some people, they hardest part may be being around other smokers,” she said. “For others, it’s hard to do activities that they did while smoking. For example, some smokers are used to drinking coffee and smoking early in the morning. For both of these, it would be best if, for the first few weeks, you change your routine. The cravings are the hardest for the first two to four weeks, so it would be best if you can stay away from things that trigger your cravings for smoking.”
But there’s no point in smoking. Really. It can lead to various cancers and diseases, including heart disease and stroke, not to mention it’s just plain foul.
And let’s not forget death. That’s an unsurprising result of smoking, too.
“I used to smoke when I was stressed. It may be in my head but it did calm me,” said friend Lena Hanson via Facebook. “My dad died last year from emphysema and smoking for 40-plus years. It’s a horrible, long process. It’s not easy watching someone die slowly.”
Makes me glad I never started.
CALL TO ACTION
This week is National Women’s Health Week, a week-long health observance that empowers women to make their health a top priority and encourages them to take simple steps for a longer, healthier, and happier life.
And one of those things is to quit smoking. Here are some tips, courtesy of the Hawaii Tobacco Quitline:
• Throw out the cigarettes: Having them around is a temptation you just don’t need.
• Know your smoking triggers: Your mind is conditioned to want a cigarette in certain places, at specific events, when you’re with particular people, or when you’re feeling a certain emotion. As you’re in the process of quitting, take the time to recondition your mind to deal with these people, places and things without a puff.
• Drink lots of water: Cigarettes contain thousands of toxins. While you’re quitting, take the opportunity to flush some of the poisons out with water,
For more resources or for help, contact the Hawaii Tobacco Quitline, (800) QUIT-NOW or (800) 784-8669.