When I was eleven years old, my best friend Michelle Baker and I thought that we would look more grown up if we started smoking. My parents smoked, so we devised a plan for me to steal their cigarettes, and then Michelle and I would meet behind K. J. Clark Middle School to smoke. We thought smoking would make us more popular with the older kids who hung out there. The next morning I sneaked into my mother’s room and stole a pack of Pallmall Gold cigarettes from her carton, and a pack of matches from her bed table. I hurried out the door to school with the overwhelming fear my mother would catch me before I could get there. I ran two whole blocks before I met up with Michelle. I proudly showed her my stolen pack of cigarettes, and she was impressed with my story of how I was able to slip the smokes out of the house. By her reaction, I just knew I was becoming more popular already. Michelle and I walked to the back of our school where the tough kids hung out and opened the pack of cigarettes. We each took one cigarette and lit it up. It was the nastiest thing I had ever tasted! I tried to inhale the smoke as I had seen my parents do, but instead of breathing a long sigh of satisfaction, I thought I would cough up a lung. I hated it! For some unexplainable reason, I kept going back behind school and lighting one up. Twenty-one years later I am still smoking. I cannot go a day without a cigarette; I am addicted.
I wake up in the middle of the night to light one up, and it is the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning. I have even fallen asleep with a cigarette in my hand, almost catching my bed on fire. I fell asleep holding a cigarette last night. When I let my hand relax, the cigarette dropped and burned on my right hand.
I always smell like smoke. I can chew all the peppermint I want, but the smell is still there. My belief that smoking would make me look older was not altogether wrong. Smoking has caused wrinkles on my face and my fingernails to yellow. The effects that nicotine has had on my appearance are irreversible.
Smoking for so many years has also taken a toll on my health. I am unable to run very far without losing my breath. I am more likely to get colds and develop respiratory problems. Asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema are always a lingering threat. My smoking has also endangered the health of my family. My children have had ear infections and are more susceptible to respiratory problems as well. Children of smoking parents are more likely to smoke as adults than children of non-smoking parents. By smoking, I may have influenced my children’s chance of a healthy future.
I have tried to quit smoking many times. I did quit for seven months in 1991, but I made the big mistake of picking up a cigarette again. Much like a heroin addict, I go though withdrawals. When I am unable to get my nicotine on a regular basis, I become a hard person to live with. All the reasons not to smoke, particularly the health risk to which I have subjected my family and myself, should be enough to make me stop, yet I still smoke. The hold this addiction has on me is incredible.