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Tobacco in Real Life
I watched my father struggle to quit throughout my childhood. He used to smoke in our Volvo, which had a white interior. When you pulled the sun visor down, you could see a distinct difference between the “naked” roof and the part under the visor. He died of lung cancer at the age of 61. He was too young and I miss him every day. I’m convinced he would’ve lived longer, come to my wedding, met his son-in-law, kissed his grandchildren, and had a cleaner car had he not smoked.
Growing up, my father always smoked. In fact, when I was very small he would buy me candy cigarettes and we would “smoke” together – mind you, I had to hide the candy cigarettes from my mother in my Hello Kitty purse, otherwise she would have thrown them away and told my father he was a bad influence. I remember we used to take walks together and he would get winded after 10 minutes, and he was always coughing. As a teen, I asked “why do you smoke?” he said “it’s a habit” I said “that’s it?” He quit on Father’s Day that year and has stayed tobacco free for 11 years and now warns me about the dangers of smoking claiming that his “lungs have been rejuvenated”. I don’t use tobacco not only because of the side effects but because if my dad is that strong, I can be too.
My brother and I were raised by my grandmother and mother, who were both smokers. From a young age, we were plagued with chronic respiratory health issues which now can be attributed to second hand smoke exposure, and, as adults, we’re both still dealing with those health impacts. We also lost our grandmother to emphysema and other smoking-related health issues when she was just 54. We both decided at that time to not repeat our family’s history of smoking, not just for ourselves, but for the health of our children.
As an athlete, I abhor the use of addictive substances that could impact my body, performance, or training capabilities. The nicotine in cigarettes has been found to be a highly addictive substance that results in shortness of breath and increases the potential for emphysema, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. In a world that is already filled with pollutants, I am left to wonder why anyone would want to knowingly put themselves in harm’s way. I find it very sad to see people (particularly, young kids) smoking when I am at an event knowing all of these health risks and their negative impacts. I also get frustrated with the cigarette companies when I travel outside of the United States to third world countries and see advertisements promoting smoking in a much more persuasive manner than is typically seen in the U.S.
While at the beach with my granddaughter, I would like to enjoy the ocean air without having to scope out where the smokers are so she and I are not downwind.