A third grade student asked the other day, “If tobacco kills so many people, why don’t they just make tobacco against the law?”We had just finished a conversation about tobacco and cigarettes and how many people are impacted by smoking. I wanted her to work it out, if she could, so I sent it right back, “That’s a great question. Why do you guys think they don’t outlaw smoking tobacco?”I had several kids’ hands shoot right up. “They don’t want to because THEY are smokers!” “There isn’t enough money to stop all the smokers.” “There aren’t enough policemen.” “They don’t know how to!”I thanked them for their answers and congratulated them because they were all correct. To propose a law banning tobacco sales would be unenforceable, would be political suicide for the bill’s sponsors and would never be allowed by the powerful tobacco lobbies. How I put it to the kids, was just:”You’re right. Even if they tried they wouldn’t be able to stop all the smokers from smoking. The smokers need to stop themselves. Do laws make people healthy? No. People make people healthy.”The same girl asked, “So why do the people who make the cigarettes keep making them?”I rubbed my fingers and thumb together in the universal sign of moollah, cash. About ten kids shouted, “Money!” I said, “That’s right! Are they as concerned about your health?” “No.”We looked at it a bit deeper. I said, “The tobacco companies have a secret. They kept it secret for a long time, but now it’s out, and I know the secret. Would you like to know the secret?” Of course they were all squirming to know.
“Okay, I’ll tell you. But remember, it’s a secret. So if I tell you, you have to promise me you’ll tell everybody you know!” They were like, “No problem! We’re GOOD at that!””Alright. The companies that make tobacco products, the small ones and the huge tobacco corporations alike, all know that if you don’t start using tobacco while you’re young, you probably never will.” They stared.”They have known for a long time that if you don’t start smoking or chewing tobacco by the time you’re 21 years old, they missed their chance to get as a regular customer. They have that window of opportunity and they know it. So they don’t want to wait till you’re 21. They want you to smoke now.”Your brains are still forming, they won’t be finished forming until you’re in your twenties. By that time it will be much harder for you to become addicted to nicotine. So they advertise with pictures of cowboys and young happy people they think you want to be like, people who look very happy. But do you think smoking really makes people happy?”NO!””Can it make them miserable?””YES!”Instead of more regulations and laws, of which we have so many it’s impossible to know them all, we have to increase the awareness of what drugs really are, what they really do and how they impact people’s lives. And we need to start that at a very young age. It’s a cinch the tobacco and alcohol companies are on top of the situation, we need to be as well.