A Bad Decision at Age 14 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

Losing relatives is supposed to be part of life, and so we remember them through pictures, memories and home videos. But losing a grandparent when it could have been prevented is really hard. A few years ago, just before Christmas, I lost my grandmother to lung cancer.
I often wonder if her death could have been prevented if the Surgeon General’s warning had been available to people of her generation. Perhaps she wouldn’t have started smoking at age 14 if she had known about the consequences. But then, teens today do know the dangers of smoking and still continue to start.
The number of people who develop lung cancer each year is increasing like an epidemic. All sorts of tests and studies have been done that confirm smoking is bad for your health. Every time I see someone smoking I feel like asking, “Is that cigarette worth throwing your life away? In essence that’s what you’re doing. The smoke you’re inhaling breaks up and dissolves the air sacs in your lungs, causing you to be short of breath now, and will possibly kill you in the future."
I don’t know if anyone would listen to me, since they don’t seem to listen to the Surgeon General. Obviously words are not enough to deter some teens from smoking. But I believe they would take it more seriously if they witnessed a loved one slowly die. If they had watched her body deteriorate from a strong 160 pounds to a frail 90 pounds ... if they had watched an active, lively person become one who could not even lift herself out of bed ... if they had watched a loud voice and laugh become a tiny, weak whisper of one who had to struggle to smile ... if they had watched the pain and sickness from radiation and chemotherapy ... if they had watched her gasping for her last breaths, knowing there was nothing anyone could do to ease her pain.
The worst part is that as you witness all this, you know it could have been prevented. You feel bad, but you know she brought it upon herself. She had a choice, and chose wrong. While my grandmother may not have known initially it was bad for her, teens these days clearly do know and make bad decisions based on something as stupid as peer pressure.
I often asked my grandmother to quit smoking while I was growing up. She would say that she couldn’t because she was addicted. But the minute the doctor told her she had lung cancer, she never again touched another cigarette. Even though for years she knew the danger of cancer, it wasn’t until she was faced with its harsh reality that she took it seriously. Unfortunately, it was too late, and after two years of suffering, she died.
If, after almost 50 years of smoking, she quit cold turkey, it’s hard to believe it is so addictive. I never imagined how awful it would be to go through this, or watch someone, until I experienced it firsthand. While I don’t wish this pain on anyone, I think a program that allows teens to witness the effects of lung cancer could deter them from smoking.
There is no need to smoke, and I still can’t figure out for the life of me why it’s legal. While the government tries to play its role by creating new laws and regulations, I don’t think they have gone far enough. They should just prohibit cigarettes, cigars and pipes. But until that happens, teens need to make better choices by not falling to peer pressure or other insignificant reasons to smoke. With all the information available, you don’t have to be a genius to decide not to smoke. You only need to have common sense and the drive to live a healthy life.
As the Christmas holiday approaches each year, I think about my grandmother and am reminded of how her life was cut short because of smoking. I think about everything that has happened to me since she died that she was not here to share. I think about my future and realize she won’t be there for all the special events like my proms, graduations, wedding and the births of my children. But, more important, she isn’t here every day just to talk to and spend time with. And all because she made a bad decision at the age of 14.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 8 comments. Post your own now!

selenagfan said...
Oct. 4, 2011 at 4:52 pm
Too bad the government is cuript(sorry for the spelling) and won't ilegalize cigarates. But, then their's the people that are like, "They would lose money because they couldn't regulate tax for cigartates." So, good luck trying to make smoking illegal.
Dragonscribe said...
Oct. 17, 2010 at 12:52 pm
This is a great story, and it has a good point. Smoking is terrible, but banning it would cause all sorts of problems. If only if had never been discovered...I don't know if you do, but don't blame your Grandmother for smoking. It was a horrible decision on her part, but it doesn't make her a bad person.
Dragonscribe said...
Oct. 17, 2010 at 12:50 pm
I am so sorry for your loss. This year my aunt died to lung cancer, and I never really knew her that well, but it upset me because she hadn't smoked for very long and she quit when she was young. People should remember even fleeting decisions like that can come back to haunt you.
nomorox said...
Oct. 15, 2010 at 4:59 pm
if this is a true story ,i feel for you. it is beautifully written and totally raises awareness...good on you and R.I.P. your grandma, mine died in a crash so i know, when people joke about car crashes, for me, it frustrates me. i hope you get better :)
J. Rae said...
Sept. 25, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Banning them would be going a little far. Then there would be a lot of illegal activity going on. What about all of the smokers who are addicted to them? "Sorry, you can't smoke those anymore, you're just going to have to go through the pain of quitting cold turkey or get arrested for having ciggerets."

I think that they way to go about this, is to keep teaching kids at a young age about smoking, only more often. Also, more rehab places for smokers. Raising money on tabacco will only m... (more »)

BlondeOnBlonde said...
Apr. 20, 2010 at 3:12 pm
the reason why its legal is because the government needs money to bail itself out and eventually they'll make marijuanna legal throught the U.S. because they need money for all the things they want and can't pay for.
Dragonscribe replied...
Oct. 17, 2010 at 12:49 pm
make marijuanna legal? that's stupid!
live.laugh.love.18 said...
Nov. 22, 2009 at 6:05 pm
I'd like to let you know.. your not alone. 2 weeks ago yesterday my grandpa lost his battle with lung cancer also. This article is soooo much like my grandpa. He said he'd never quit smoking, and he did as soon as he found out he had cancer. It was sad because he lived a little over 6 months but i am so thankful that I became so close with him, he became really important to me over the last year.
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