Two years ago a great man died. He spent his last three years of life in a shuffle between his home, a nursing home, and finally his hospital bed In Austin.
All the while, I sat and watched as this once strong and powerful man that I knew as my grandpa slowly deteriorated as his once strong body began to fail him.
He was not infected with any disease, he did not die a natural death, he was murdered. In his youth my grandfather was a farm boy in Giddings, Texas. And, like all farmboys at the time, he smoked. It was part of the way people were supposed to be back then. Most kids idolized John Wayne who had a woman in one hand and a smoke in the other. This was what people were supposed to do because the Tobacco companies paid millions to make it that way, spending more on advertising than the budget of most small nations.
Once he had tried them he was addicted and there was no support at the time to help him quit. So for the past 50 years he was a smoker. Then, his body started to reciprocate his actions. First, his lungs started to blacken. He was frequently out of breath, which is not good when your livelihood is raising cattle on a 200 acre farm.
Then, he started to lose weight, and he was on the lean side to begin with. His bones became brittle, his liver slowly died. And finally he was sent to the Hospital, where he lived, if you can call that living, for 6 months.
I know now that he is not alone, smoking is the number one preventable cause of death in America, millions die each year as a result of the 1950’s version of the Marlboro man created by the tobacco companies to sell their deadly product. In fact, most tobacco companies still deny that their product is killing people. They say that it’s the people who use the cigarettes that are to blame. That it was their choice. But who gave them that choice? They claim that they care about the people. That they support not smoking. But then why did they spend millions last year on ads geared towards a younger audience?
In a report from Winston, the cigarette company, they are losing customers because, quite frankly, all the people they got addicted to their cigarettes in the 50’s and 60’s are dying. So, they have stepped up on marketing their products to the newest generation of consumers.
So now it is up to us, the newest generation, to make the right decision. Don’t fall prey to “peer” pressure. We can’t blame all of the problems on the tobacco companies; at some point personal responsibility does come into play. I urge everyone here to stop and think the next time they are at a party and someone offers them a smoke. Think about what you’re getting yourself into. About what will happen if you smoke that cigarette. Or you’ll end up with no cigar.