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To Smoke or not to Smoke

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You hear it everywhere; you hear it all the time. “Don’t do drugs”, “There’s no hope in dope”, and the popular “Just Say No”, it seems like everywhere you turn you are constantly bombarded with warnings about the dangers of marijuana and other drugs. Multiple commercials of teenagers being peer pressured by friends and acquaintances to smoke and drink were on every television station I watched. I did what most of the teens which these warnings were directed too did, and just ignored them. I used the same excuses they probably came up with “Oh, my friends aren’t like that”, or “That’s crazy, kids don’t have access to drugs” and even “How hard is it to say no?” All of these commercials and warnings from my elders seemed like a waste of time as they were already preaching to the converted, and besides I’ve made it this far without seeing what a joint even looked like, what were the chances that I would see one now?

It was my last month of 8th grade and I was invited to a pre-graduation party by one of my classmates. Being the social introvert that I was, I decided to go along with my good friend J----, that way I would have someone to talk to, without feeling obligated into the awkward task of forced social mingling that was slightly expected of me. I was not the type to attend parties as you could have guessed, but I wanted to go to this one in particular being that it was possibly the last opportunity I would have to be with the rest of my friends and classmates. Not to mention the fact that A----, the girl who I’ve had a crush on since 5th grade was going to be there as well.
The day of the party came, and to my surprise it went much better than I could have hoped, I ate, danced and conversed with many of my peers, as well as a few new acquaintances. Time passed and before I knew it, it was dark out, and the inevitable party killer occurred. The adults had migrated to our party zone outside and began playing their outdated 1970’s music and dancing their dances that should have died along with the age of platform shoes and Jerry curls. Needless to say most kids at the party dispersed and began roaming the block. I walked a few blocks with J---- and we talked about our past years in grade school, and what to expect in our next few years of high school, until we came upon a group of about 10 or 12 kids who had just left the party. They were at an abandoned street standing in a circle and talking when J---- recognized a few of them and led me over to join the conversation. After a few minutes of meaningless gossip one of the kids broke the conversation, pulled out a joint and said “Anyone one else want a hit, it’s the good stuff, just bought it today”. He was immediately answered by one of the other cool jocks in the group who responded “That’s the best idea you’ve had yet”. Upon replying he pulled out a cigarette of his own. Within seconds both had lit up and started the usual puff, puff, pass routine. Around the circle it went until it came into the hands of my crush, A----- who took a hit, and exhaled the smoke like a pro if I’ve ever seen one. It continued around till it came to J-----, who stared at it for a second before holding it in his hands and awkwardly taking a hit and immediately coughing and sputtering out the white smoke that filled his lungs. He turned to me and pushed the joint in my direction. At that instant I realized I was faced with an ultimatum, I could take the hit and impress the group and more importantly my crush but unfortunately risk my father smelling the stench of smoke on me, killing me, then grounding me until my children were old enough to get married - or I could pass it up and face the numerous laughs and jokes directed at my expense about being the un-cool wimp of the group. I knew what I should have done, but I just then understood how difficult it was to do it, and how ridiculously easy it can be to give in to “peer pressure”. Fearing the wrath of my father, I did the right thing. Needless to say, I was ridiculed, and never got the girl. The night ended and we all finished our last month of school and graduated.

4 years have passed I still managed to keep in contact with a many of them to this day. Some of them make me glad I did what I did all those years ago, as I watch them waste their allowances and even paychecks week after week on their cancer sticks called cigarettes or on their next big “fix” from the dealer while watching their good grades slip through their fingers, and one can only wonder how the others I haven’t kept contact with turned out. I see now how destructive the drugs and vices I was warned about can actually be. And it makes me want to try to warn the next generation of impressionable teens about what they could be faced with and what to do, but along with the commercials and posters they are flooded with, I would just be ignored as well. Maybe some people just have to learn for themselves. Maybe children are just programmed not to listen to those wiser than they. A lot is uncertain, but looking at me now and seeing how I’ve turned out, I’ve learned that doing the right thing may be hard at times, but it can be definitely be worth it in the end.





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