Smokers: This is your warning

By Victoria Hardina |

I am not an aggressive person. I rarely raise my voice, and when I do, it is usually out of excitement, not anger. There is one thing that will light me on fire, though … smokers.

With the music blaring and windows down, I was speeding along I-4 last Sunday afternoon. I was in very high spirits after spending the weekend with my family. Weaving through traffic, my eye caught a blue minivan.

Things took a turn for the worse. Not only are blue minivans extremely tacky, but the driver of the atrocious van was disgusting. He did not have any facial problems or other noticeable unattractive qualities. No, the sickening thing was the item he was holding in his hand — a lit death stick in a van occupied with three children. To make matters worse, he had the windows up.

Nothing gets my blood boiling like a parent who smokes in front of their children. It is enough to make me want to pull the driver over on the road and give him a swift slap on the head.

We don’t let toddlers cross the street without holding our hand. Children can’t ride in the car without being strapped down to a car seat that has met national certification standards. Nowadays we’re even walking our kids on a leash to keep them protected. Parents are doing all of these things to keep children safe, healthy, and most importantly … alive. We won’t tolerate parents who hit their kids, we arrest adults who abuse them, and we have more child safety laws than I can count.

But if we care so much about the protection and safety children, why is it acceptable to expose them to the life threatening risks of secondhand smoke?

Secondhand smoke is the mixture of the smoke off the burning end of a cigarette, and the smoke exhaled by the smoker. It contains over 4,000 substances. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, secondhand smoke is a serious risk for children. Some of the effects of secondhand smoke can cause asthma, lower respiratory tract infections like bronchitis and pneumonia, ear infections, and a significant lowering in lung function.

It’s horrible to think that kids might have to deal with serious health problems because their parents won’t step outside to smoke a cigarette. Secondhand smoke exposure greatly affects a child’s ability to learn. More than 21.9 million children are estimated to be at risk of reading deficits because of secondhand smoke.

Not only does secondhand smoke affect children at an early age, the repercussions of smoking will last their entire lives. Kids who have parents who smoke will be twice as likely to smoke when they are older, according to Medical News. We all know that smoking kills. So why are we just sitting by and watching it happen?

I have never been a smoker myself, so I don’t know how difficult it is to quit or how addicting cigarettes are. I do know that if you love your children then you will make sure you don’t expose them to the harmful substances in secondhand smoke. For those of you who aren’t smokers, don’t be afraid to call someone out next time you see them blowing smoke in a child’s face!

I’m not saying you should yank the cigarette out of their hand and yell at them (as tempting as that sounds), but you could let them kindly know that by smoking in front of children they are setting a negative example and hurting others. You could be helping save that kid from a lot of damage. I have no problem letting an adult know the harm that they’re causing by breathing chemicals into fresh air. They may not appreciate what I have to say at the time, but hopefully something will click in their brain later on. Maybe next time they’ll find a more appropriate place to smoke. Somewhere away from children.

If we all work together to inform as many people as possible, smokers and non-smokers, about the danger secondhand smoke causes, then many lives will be changed for the better. Every year in the United States 7,500 infants and 15,000 children are hospitalized from secondhand smoke exposure according to American Lung Association. We can lower those numbers.

A word to you smokers out there: if you want to throw your money down the drain and slowly kill yourself by smoking, then I’m not here to stop you. If you plan to expose a helpless child to that, then we have a burning problem.

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