Our children are still a bit young to worry about this, but I was shocked to read a report from the BBC that documents research from Harvard University and the University of Queensland where they calculated that almost 5,000,000 people were killed in the year 2000 from smoking. Yes, you read that right, five million people in one year.
The research they cite was from the journal Tobacco Control, and it cites that men are over three times as likely to die an early death as a direct result of smoking than women, and that three out of four deaths in developed countries and more than eight out of ten in developing countries were men.
In terms of specifics, cardiovascular disease is cited as the cause of death for over one million people in the developed world and 670,000 in the developing world. Lung cancer, the most overt form of smoking illness, sent over 500,000 people to an early grave. Chronic obstructive airways disease (COPD) killed an additional 650,000 people in the developing world.
Most staggering to me is that in Eastern Europe and North America, smoking caused almost one in four deaths overall in people between the ages of 30 and 69. Overall, one in ten of all deaths in adults can be attributed to smoking related ailments, and with men, that figure is one in five.
So here’s a tip: teach your children whatever you think is important, share whatever values you believe they should have, help them find their own moral path in our confusing world, but teach them not to smoke.
I was born and raised in Europe and even if most of my classmates had at least tried smoking in middle school, I never did. I have actually still never had a cigarette in my mouth and I’m over 40 now. My parents sat me down when I was 10 and asked me what my biggest wish would be for my 15th birthday. I loved to take photos and I said that I would wish for the best camera available. They told me that I could choose whatever camera I wanted, if I hadn’t ever tried a cigarette until I turned 15. It was easy to promise with 10 when I thought cigarettes were the worst thing out there anyway, but it got really hard later. Of course all my friends went behind the school at lunch time to smoke and the only thing that kept me away from “being cool” was the thought of the camera I would get. Every time somebody tried to convince me I said the same phrase: “I can’t. I’m getting the most fantastic camera if I let be and I can’t lie about it.” It really kept me from smoking until I was 15 years old and then I knew I had done the right decision anyway. I have never wanted to try since then and you can be sure I have the same bet going on with my kids!