How Tobacco Has Affected the Live of Jefferson County Youth
The Following articles were written by students in the DeSoto High School Hi-Step program. These students were trained advocates through the TATU (Teens Against Tobacco Use) program at Jefferson County Health Department
A Thousand Voices
By: Erica Kean
A thousand voices have been stopped and prolonged,
A thousand voices have been lied to, cheated, and wronged,
A harmful vixen killing young and old,
A slow death left lonely and cold,
Seen as a pleasure for nerves and peace,
An epidemic at once has to cease,
So next time think as you smell the smoke,
Remember that smoking can kill you, it’s no joke.
TATU. What does that mean? No, I’m not talking about a design that you can have etched into your skin. I am talking about Teens Against Tobacco Use. That is what TATU stands for. A program called Hi-Step exists at De Soto High School, and the students in that program participate in TATU activities. Every student in Hi-Step is a junior at De Soto High School. I am a member of the Hi-Step program. All of us, students, in the program get the opportunity to go into elementary classrooms and teach younger students about staying away from tobacco. This experience is amazing. I actually felt like I was changing the lives of the (elementary) students. I felt like I was having an impact on them and teaching them something that could end up saving their lives. We taught elementary children about not using tobacco. We taught them about the effects that tobacco has on your body. We showed them how harmful tobacco is. We told them about emphysema, which is a disease caused by smoking. We showed them what emphysema does to your lungs by taking actual pig lungs into the classroom. One of the pig lungs was healthy, while the other was a lung affected by emphysema. We pumped air into the lungs to show them how emphysema makes it hard for you to breathe. We also made them breathe through tiny straws so they would know how it feels to have emphysema. This activity really seemed to send them a message. We taught them ways to say “no” to tobacco and how tobacco companies trick them into buying these harmful products. We showed them chemicals that are used in making of cigarettes. We told them about how tobacco is made and how disgusting the product really is. The students responded to everything we said. They asked questions and told us pieces of information that they had learned in the past about this subject. They interacted with us and participated in all of our games. I think we had a positive effect on them. They look up to us as role models, and I hope that everything we taught them stick with them as they grow older. I was very happy to have the opportunity to teach these children, and I am proud of everyone in the Hi-Step program for making a difference in the lives of others.
Many people in my life have been affected by tobacco. Starting with the youngest my step-brother who has been smoking for a couple of years now, he also used to use chewing tobacco. He has to spend his money on his habit now and will pay for it as he gets older. He refuses to realize that even though the habit of smoking runs in his family. So do the problems that come along with it. My grandmother Sparks has a form of emphysema now, she has been smoking since she was a young woman and it had her addicted until her doctor told her she would die if she continued her habit. Her son, my step-father, has been smoking since he went into the army, which was when he was eighteen. He started dating my mom in 1998, they were married in 1999, and by 2000 he had seven by-pass surgeries. We do not blame the by-pass completely on his use of tobacco but it is part of the reason. On top of not exercising regularly, not eating healthy, then on top of it smoking, made it hard for his heart to pump blood through his arteries and flush the substances that were clogging them up. He felt bad one day and went to the doctor, the doctor told them he would have to have an appointment so he went next door to the hospital and they told him they had to operate immediately. More or less he was having a heart attack; seven of his main arteries were completely clogged. He has not had tobacco since that day, it shows that it is possible for you to quit, it was very difficult and we all had to be patient but it was a proud moment for us when he told us he was quitting cold turkey, no patch, no shot, just fighting the urge. Tobacco has had more effects on my life than just this but it goes to show you that all you need is a little will power and you should be able to quit. It should not take an almost death experience to open your eyes, all you have to do is look around and listen to the stories of others because even though you think it never could, the same thing could happen to you.
Tobacco at one point in time will affect everybody. It has even affected me. I have grown up in a family of smokers. The smell of smoke always bothered me, and still does. When I was five years old my grandpa died of heart failure. I was told it was a cause of smoking. My grandma now has emphysema and has to wear oxygen. After seeing how smoking has affected my family I never want to smoke. It has not only just affected my grandparents but also my parents. Its hard to see them to see my grandparents be sick. I have learned so much about tobacco throughout the years. I have been offered to smoke I just politely refused. I honestly believe I will never smoke.
When I look back and think about how tobacco has affected me, it saddens me; I grew up in houses that were always filled with smoke. My clothes, my backpack, my hair, and everything else I owned smelled like smoke. I would go to my friends’ houses and their parents could smell the smoke on my things. It was extremely embarrassing. Now that I am older, I realize how the second-hand smoke has affected my body. I cannot ride in a car with smokers because I get sick to my stomach and tremendously nauseous. It’s hard for me to run long distances because I get out of breath easily. I cannot stand seeing cigarettes being sold at the gas stations and stores. I think about all the money my parents and family has wasted on the deadly habit. I never went without the essentials while growing up, but I think about the other children that have gone without. Tobacco companies earn billions off of people who smoke, but they never advertise the lives that are taken away or interrupted by smoking. My life definitely was not improved from my parents smoking, and I have never heard of anyone’s life improving from it. Tobacco use is not a useful habit, and definitely one of the deadliest to me.
Personal experiences with tobacco are never a good thing. One of my family members has been chewing tobacco for as long as I can remember. Not only is this habit harmful to his health, but it also aggravates the people around him. If a person chews tobacco they need a cup to spit in it. This means lots of cups are used to spit in. I’d say this person’s favorite type of cup to spit in would be a Styrofoam coffee cup, with the plastic lid still on. This doesn’t give a person a whole lot of room to miscalculate where they are spitting. Worse than that is if you forget what’s in the cup, you’re doomed.
An experience another one of my family members regretfully had was picking up a cup half full of spit and taking a drink of it. Let’s just say this didn’t make them too happy, and it’s something that commonly happens when a person must constantly be around a “chewer”. In my life I haven’t had to deal with the use of tobacco a whole lot, but when I have been around it, it looks disgusting! I really don’t see what hooks people, I’ve seen what it can do from posters and experiences, and can honestly say it’s never a habit I want to have. The warnings I’ve heard about tobacco are enough to make me want to stay away from it, and I don’t like seeing one of my family members use it or drink the remains of it, with some slobber added in. I actually do find that disgusting, but somewhat humorous as well.
I immensely enjoyed teaching the fourth graders about tobacco this year. I taught the lesson with Shelby Roberts, Audra Ferguson, and Jessica Pope. We divided the activities among us. I taught the kids about the pig lungs. One of them was a healthy lung and the other was a lung with emphysema, a disease that makes it harder to breath. Pretty much, the whole HISTEP class was amazed at theses lungs, but the kids had seen it before; although, it was still very interesting to them. We also had them breath through straws to see how hard it is to breathe if you smoke. Then, we had a fish bowl full of water and put food dye in it to show how fast smoke spreads through the air. Next, we had a chemical bucket that we showed them. This (the bucket) was full of things that we use often in life that has chemicals that are in cigarettes. Then, we just answered their questions and went into greater detail about smoking. We definitely had a great time teaching them and I know that next year’s HISTEP students will love this class!
Tobacco is a kind word for murderer. Sure, you may not succumb to its lethal effects after one drag of a cigarette or one dip of chew, but it you get snagged into the addiction; it can be a life sentence. This was the case for my grandmother Patricia. My grandma began smoking when she was in high school. From then on, cigarettes became a part of her daily routine, and would be for at least the next fifty years. In August of 2004, my grandmother became ill, and had to be hospitalized. She was diagnosed with an extremely aggressive form of small cell lung cancer. She also had the beginnings of emphysema, and the cancer in her lungs had also spread to her brain. She began radiation treatments immediately and chemotherapy in September. My grandma continued chemo until February of 2005 when she decided to live out the rest of her life as it would be. Watching my grandmother struggle through the pain was extremely difficult for my family, and was especially hard on my parents since they were her main caregivers. My grandma always had a positive attitude, even when it had to be next to impossible for her. Grandma was only sixty-six years old when she died in May of 2005. She lived for only nine months after she initially found out about her condition. I have personally seen the devastating effects of the use of tobacco, and I am absolutely detest tobacco and anything that has to do with it.
During my life smoking has impacted me a lot. Both of my parents smoke and my brother has tried it. My father always told my brother and I if we tried it there would be serious consequences and my brother did not take the warning seriously. When my dad caught my brother smoking he was not allowed to hang out with the kid he did it with, and he also received punishment at home. I see the way that smoking has made my dad’s life hard and he is always worrying about money. He has spent a lot of money on just trying to quit and many of his efforts have failed. He started smoking when he was a teen and now he cannot stop. Although he knows that he can not afford to buy the cigarettes but he gets very cranky when he has not had a cigarette in a while. My grandfather also died from lung cancer. The doctor said that it could have been caused from smoking all the year he did. I would not even try to start seeing the way it has made my dad, and the punishment my brother received so many years ago for trying cigarettes.
My experiences with tobacco use haven’t been good experiences. When I was one my grandma (my mom’s mom) died of lung cancer. Even though she quit smoking for two years she still got cancer. She found out in September of 1991. Then my great aunt Thelma died on October 11, 2003 of lung cancer, also. This was my dads’ moms’ sister, which she was like my other grandma; and to this day my grandma Reando still smokes along with my uncle. I also have had friends that have tried smoking and some that smoke regularly. I have never tried smoking and never will smoke a cigarette because of my great aunt and my grandma. Also because now I know what all is in the tobacco. But I have never been offered one, a cigarette, and of course, if I was, I would have to say NO!
Tobacco has affected my life in many ways one way was when I was younger my grandpa always smoked all the time, he was diagnosed with cancer and had to get half of his neck taken out. He went through all his treatments and five years later the cancer came back. This time it had spread to his voice box. They could not take anymore skin from his neck so they had to take some skin from his leg. He can no longer talk by himself, he has to use a device that he sticks in his mouth and it is very hard to understand. When we go places with him people always look at me to tell them what he said because somehow I always know what he is talking about. He gets very mad when he is talking to someone and they just nod their head and don’t get what he is saying. Another way smoking has affected my life is when I was a little kid my mom smoked and the doctors said that it was the cause of my asthma. It is hard for me to play sports without my inhaler. This was just some of the ways that smoking affected my life.
Tobacco can harm you and your family in many ways. My dad was a smoker and drinker for many years. He became addicted to tobacco when he was about eighteen years old. (Tobacco contains nicotine, a poison and natural pesticide, which is one of the most addictive toxins in tobacco). He told me that it was the most addicting thing that he had ever tried. He also told me that he smoked around two packs of cigarettes a day. Luckily for him, he quit about twenty years ago. Today, he is no longer a smoker and is free of alcohol. Tobacco is one of the most addicting things in America and is not only addicting, but is an addiction that is extremely hard to break. If he had not been able to quit, he most likely would have gotten a disease commonly called emphysema.
Emphysema is a condition where the human lung is loaded with tar from the tobacco. (Tar is one of the main ingredients in tobacco). With your lung loaded down with tar, breathing problems arise. Generally emphysema strikes people over the age of fifty, but it has been seen, in some cases, to hit people when they are in their twenties. This disease causes a hard life, if not death. My mom was the main reason my dad quit smoking; she told him if he didn’t quit, she would not marry him. Obviously he wanted to marry her, so he was able to quit by that motivation. If my dad got emphysema, he probably would not be here today.
Tobacco was first truly made into an industry in the times of colonial America. Now days it’s a multi-billion dollar industry, and unfortunately it is one of the most destructive. It can cause multiple types of cancer, considerable amounts of cardio-system and nerve-system diseases, and horrible complications for birth. When one looks into the chemicals found in cigarettes and cigarette smoke it is no wonder. Some chemicals that are easily recognizable are arsenic, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, stearic acid, DDT, hydrogen cyanide (used as a gas chamber poison), mercury, and lead. This is only a tiny sample of over four thousand chemicals that are found in cigarettes and cigarette smoke.
Many are able to ignore the dangers of cigarettes but it has been found that when tobacco is drying, snakes, rodents, and insects have often found their way into the storerooms. When the tobacco is processed the bodies of the dead animals are not removed. This is the reason for almost all tobacco industries to add an embalming fluid into the tobacco; it is a simple way to keep down the smell of the rotting flesh of the animals.
Some people will argue that it’s their choice to do what they want with their body; unfortunately, they are not just affecting themselves. Whether they mean to or not, they are greatly hurting other people who do not choose to smoke. The truth is when anyone is in close proximity with the smoker; the other person is getting unwanted cigarette smoke. When someone spends a full day at the house of someone that smokes the person can inhale the equivalent of three cigarettes, they work in an office that allows smoking they can get up to the equivalent of six cigarettes in one work day.
Smoking cigarettes can directly affect someone’s life. My grandmother is suffering from a form of cancer that has been linked to being caused by cigarette smoke. She has smoked a great deal of her life. Now her entire family will have to live with the possibility of her dying before she should. Also one of my older sisters smokes. She started after high school by pressure of one of her “friends” that turned out not to be much of a friend. She has had to deal with two miscarriages that may well have been due to the cigarettes. Through the power of will and support from those close, she was able to kick the habit, just to have it return later due to stress and a badly timed craving. She has been hooked, again, since. The money that is used to pay for cigarettes makes life difficult due to money strains already in place on her.
In the end, no matter what someone may think is cool, fun, or relaxing; smoking in nothing but bad for anyone who smokes or is around that person. It greatly affects their life whether they realize it or not. It painfully wastes away a good person, close confidant, and honorable friend.