I Told You So This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

     It’s 5 a.m., and I’m wide awake. I shouldn’t be - I still have an hour of hard-earned sleep before the cell phone on my pillow will play the Red Hot Chili Peppers and coax me awake to meet the day. I struggle to hold onto the hour I have left. I’m warm, burrowed deep under my black comforter. It’s calm and dark in my room. And it should be silent. I jam my pillow harder over my ears, hoping for quiet. But through the pillow, I can still hear the wet, hacking cough coming from the opposite end of the house - the cough I wake up to every morning. The cough that comes from 30 years of smoking.

I first noticed it when I was six. I’d always been told, “Don’t touch this. Don’t touch that,” and up to that point, I was more interested in playing with my Barbies than questioning my parents. I knew that if I touched Mommy and Daddy’s cigarettes, I’d get in trouble. Good enough for my six-year-old state of mind.

Then I hit first grade, and with that came some new and amazing things. Like visits from the school counselor and my first drug and alcohol lectures: “Don’t do drugs. Don’t drink alcohol. Don’t talk to strangers!” I saw the logic of all of these things - drugs, alcohol, and strangers in vans waving candy around could hurt me, so I had to stay away. Simple. Got it.

Only, under the big red “X” on the poster urging me not to do drugs was something I saw dangling from my parents’ fingers every day. Something I had been warned not to touch all my life. A lit cigarette.

Tobacco kills. Mr. Whitlow, my counselor, said so. Why would my parents do something that could kill them? I was shocked, confused, and scared. My first-grade mind was unequipped to handle the myriad emotions. Here began my zero tolerance for smoking.

Seventy-nine percent of Americans are addicted to cigarettes or smoke regularly. I wonder if any of them ever had recurring nightmares featuring dark, smoke-filled rooms and the death of their parents. Did they spare a thought for those around them, inhaling the smoke? Did they think about what was in a cigarette - arsenic, benzene, ammonia, carbon monoxide?

I have a “No Smoking” sign posted on my bedroom door. I finally got over the phase where I posted them on every available surface in my house. I refuse, with every bit of stubbornness I possess, to be around anyone who’s smoking. I see smoking as an utter lack of respect, a “let me blow arsenic-enriched smoke in your face” sort of thing. I continuously wash my clothes to try to remove the smoky smell I relate with death. But it never seems to fade. The fact that my parents smoke will always keep me from respecting them as much as I’d like to. Every time my sister erupts in a king-sized asthma attack, I lose respect for them with every wheezing gasp for air.

And it scares me. I don’t want to be 25 and burying my parents. I don’t want to toss that first handful of soil onto their coffins, thinking, I told you so.

I don’t want to see a friend talking through a hole in his or her throat and think, I told you so.

And I don’t want to be lying in a hospital, one of over 440,000 people suffering from second-hand smoke-related illness, thinking, I told you so.

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 14 comments. Post your own now!

Lily">This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
today at 7:18 am
i love this so much!
blablabla said...
Apr. 23, 2017 at 4:04 am
It really made me to cry,it's really a heart touching story
matthew said...
Jan. 15, 2014 at 12:44 pm
do you know how many words does it have?
shapeshifter56 said...
Nov. 11, 2012 at 11:44 pm
I have to say that I totally agree with the disrespect thing. Smoking is so inconsiderate to all of those around you. Whether they're close to you physically or close to your heart, it could have such a major impact on them.
beautifulspirit This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 6, 2012 at 3:50 pm
I can understand this a little...my mom has smoked for as long as I can remember. Though she doesn't smoke in the same room as me, I sometimes worry she may be gone sooner than I'd like. Like you, I don't want to be 25 and burying my mother, bitterly thinking "I told you so." 
Gabbiie.B said...
Jan. 21, 2012 at 10:29 am
wow, i can realte a little my dad smokes, and it really irks me but i can understand why, it's a way of relieving stress, even if it's unhealthy,but for me i preferred to never EVER touch a cigarette in my life.
Dreamergirl said...
Apr. 16, 2011 at 9:23 pm

Wow! Beautifully written! :) Keep on writing and posting more of your works! That's soo true!

Take care,


SpyceChik said...
Sept. 2, 2010 at 5:31 am
Wow! great article!
JessicaBee said...
Aug. 11, 2010 at 3:27 am

Amazing, you took all the words out of my mouth and wrote them in sheer amazingess. Trust me, you're not alone. I know exactly how you feel.

Great job :)

BasketballChick5 said...
Mar. 10, 2010 at 9:26 pm
i meant good job lol:)
BasketballChick5 said...
Mar. 10, 2010 at 9:25 pm
i liked this artical.......but some people only smoke like every other day and just one and thats still bad for you....you goob
practicerandomkindness said...
May 30, 2009 at 3:55 am
I agree with you. Smoking is very bad for you, and this article says that in an interesting and hard-hitting way.Good work.
ilyy1112 said...
Nov. 19, 2008 at 7:12 pm
this is crazyy good !

i love it and i totally agree !
swim37 said...
Oct. 16, 2008 at 11:12 pm
i agree with this piece but i also don't. I know what you mean about people dying, my aunt recently died from smoking but you can't change people know matter how hard you try. This was a really good piece tho. keep writing!
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