Meagan, a teacher at Boston Arts Academy, quit smoking cigarettes, but she’s still around it a lot. Her dad smoked when she was young, as did her grandfather. Before she started, Meagan was always the person to tell people to “stop wanting to fit in with college peers.” But, by the end of her freshman year of college, her perspective changed. People would move away and give her weird looks when she was smoking at the bus stop — when they would start coughing she would get annoyed. Smoking is “not gonna be the things that kills you,” she said.
Cigarettes are addictive and can cause cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease and other health problems. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, there are over 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke and tobacco-related products. More than 70 are known to cause and/or initiate cancer and are called carcinogens. Cigarettes, cigars, and pipes contain dried tobacco leaves along with chemicals and additives. Some, like tar and arsenic acetone, are very dangerous. Even “natural” products, such as herbal cigarettes, give off smoke and tar that contains many of the same chemicals.
Even non-smokers can get sick by inhaling secondary smoke states the Centers for Disease Control. With this in mind, people shouldn’t smoke right next to someone else, especially a minor. I’ve encountered people on the train who sat next to me smelling like cigarettes, even if they aren’t smoking at that very moment. In fact, cigarette smoke can rub off on anyone. Smokers should be mindful and wary about this.
“Smokers need to be respectful,” Meagan said. She didn't feel that way before, but now she feels bad.
I’ve had an experience with secondary smoke before. One lovely afternoon, my friend and I were sitting at an outside table doing homework as I waited for my work shift to start. Everything was going well until a stench forced its way into my nostrils, causing my survival instincts to emerge from within! Immediately me and my friend covered our noses with our hands, but realized it wasn’t working so we used our sweaters.
My friend couldn’t stop talking about how bothered he was by it. I had to shush him multiple times because he was speaking loudly and I didn’t want things to get out of hand. We could have moved to another table, but they were all occupied and I wanted to stay near the area where I work. Hoping to still get some homework done, I found that every now and then I would get distracted by the smell. Eventually, I gave up on doing homework and told my pal that I couldn’t stand it anymore so we left.
When I spoke with ninth graders at Boston Arts Academy they felt similarly.
“I don’t really like when people smoke around me because it makes my head hurt,” said Arlynn Varela. “I just don’t like the smell of smoke, so I wouldn’t be happy; I would tell em to put that crap away.”
No one is stopping you from smoking, but keep in mind the people around you and how you could affect them; whether that be physically or emotionally.
Smoking is an addiction. Meagan smoked for 10 years before stopping at age 28. She had gotten diagnosed with a chronic illness. It was probably not caused by her tobacco used, but the doctor still asked her to stop smoking. She did, but she told me she would probably keep going if it wasn't for her health issue. She tried to quit even before the illness. She was switching back and forth on an “on and off, four-year period.” People started asking if she smoked two or three years ago because they could smell it on her, so she eventually got paranoid and kept perfume and body spray on her at all times.
People should be allowed to smoke in their backyard, or in public spaces that are specifically designated for smoking, because then non-smokers can enter at their own risk. As Meagan said, it’s “a choice you’re making not the people around you.