Forewarned and Forearmed

Ok, tell the truth. When you see your favorite actor smoke a cigarette on screen, does it make you want to run out and buy a pack of cigarettes? You know, like “monkey see, monkey do’? Probably not.

After all, you are more than a mindless sponge who lacks the ability to make wise decisions, right? Unfortunately the brain can process only what it receives. For instance, you see the supercool actor smoking a cigarette, and proof, in a few seconds your brain forever associates that actor with that cigarette and being cool.

Before you get hyped about being called a mindless sponge, you should know that the same thing happens to adults and small children. Honestly, we are all easily taken in by what we see. Your ten-year-old brother wants PSP, or your sister wants dress like Britney Spears. Your mom sees an oil ad on TV that promises to prevent wrinkles. And don’t forget your dad and those Hummer ads. None of these experiences are selling a lifestyle or an attitude.

But back to you and your supercool actor. While the impression may have no immediate impact on you, ideas about what is cool and what is not have been planted in your head. These ideas can and often do eventually affect your future choices.

Perhaps the suggestion that smoking is cool will take root on a day you’re bored. Such as when it’s raining outside, or your wardrobe needs updating, or car’s in the garage, or you’re flunking chemistry, or your love life is in the pits. With nothing else to do, you head to the mall to hang out with friends. One of them offers you a cigarette and suddenly, inexplicably, and on what seems like a whim, you take a puff. And that’s how it begins.

Somewhere in the deepest recesses of your brain you connected that proffered cigarette with fun times, being cool, the handsome actor, exciting car crashes, and hot dates. Sound crazy? Well it is not. That’s exactly how the brain works. Everything you see, hear, feel, taste, and smell is recorded in the brain. And it can’t be erased. The periodic table of elements you memorized may get misfiled and you can’t recall it during your chemistry quiz, but mind you, it’s in there – somewhere – along with the memory of the too-cool actor and his cigarette.

OK, but what made you smoke it? Did the cool, dashing actor stuff the cigarette into your mouth? Did he threaten your life unless you took a puff? Did he threaten you in any way? No, your brain did it all. The actor only planted a seed.

Your brain’s only protection from high gloss of the advertising world is to be forewarned and forearmed with the truth, not left with movie-inspired tales. The truth is that cigarettes are not for those under 18. Tobacco is the only product in the US proven to contain 43 known cancer-causing chemicals. As to adult smoking, ask an adult smoker how old they were when they began smoking.
Smoking does hurt everyone. While they may not all die with lung cancer or from a heart attack, their bodies are permanently damaged by smoking. Did you know that 5 million children alive today will die prematurely from smoking-related diseases? That’s hurting a whole lot of people.

So not true! Secondary smoke kills young children, adults, and even the family pet. Innocent people can and do die from the smoker’s habit. Putting in money, tobacco-related diseases cost an estimated $80 billion a year for health care in the US.