Those wild and crazy people at WalkingTimeBomb.com have a whole host of ads aimed at college students who blithely assume (despite all the evidence to the contrary) that they’ll quit smoking after they graduate. Some of them are pretty strange and don’t make a lot of sense, but some are real winners:
Hitting yourself in the face with a hammer is not harmful as long as you only do it socially.
When I’m at the bar I like to smack myself in the face a few times with a good claw hammer. So what? Who am I hurting? Or the other day I was walking along with Joe and he pulled out a shiny ball-peen model. Man, we just went to town with that baby. But what of it? I don’t plan on being one of those life-long hammerers. I’ll just quit after I graduate by tapering off with some of those small rubber mallets.
Generally I’m a pretty libertarian kind of guy, and I rarely give students grief about their smoking even though they bloody well ought to know better. Going through this cancer fight with Dad, though, makes it tough not to run around shouting at students that I see smoking.
The problem is that the claim that smoking (or not wearing a seatbelt or a bicycle helmet or whatever) only hurts the fool is based on a sad and ultimately unacceptable assumption that there is and will be no love in that person’s world when the odds come for their due. To watch my mother hold Dad while he’s vomiting again in the middle of the night, to hear her voice break on the phone after spending another all-nighter with him at the hospital, all this shatters any arguments that the impact of these choices is limited.
We are people, and that has implications.
When my father started smoking in the early 40’s, there was no broad understanding of the horrible risks involved, and as that data became clearer the tobacco industry spent millions to confuse and obfuscate the issues. At some point when I was a kid (late 60’s, early 70’s) Dad became convinced and stopped cold, an action I have always admired.
Today’s students can’t claim ignorance, and I sure as hell hope they don’t plan on lonely, loveless lives. I know that I have higher aspirations for them…