The first time your friend offers you a smoke, you reluctantly say yes, never thinking it might become something more. But the next time, you find yourself saying yes more eagerly. You’re already craving the calmness tobacco brings. Then, before you know it, you find that you always have tobacco on you.
You’ve become addicted.
Zephyr*, a junior at North, uses chew tobacco. At age 11, his friends kept asking if he wanted to smoke a cigarette. Five years later, his addiction is so severe that he has to chew or smoke every 3 hours. He once tried to quite his freshman year, but was unable to curb the habit.
According to him, the only good thing that comes out of using tobacco is the friends that one meets. The negative effects range from being broke to have 4 rotting teeth.
“Stay away from tobacco,” he said. “It’ll ruin your life.”
His parents have threatened to throw him out, he has been suspended twice, and his gums are decaying. Zephyr wants to quit but doesn’t know how.
Jean-Claude* started using tobacco when a friend offered him a cigarette. Although he was 15, he was one of his last friends to get into tobacco use.
The effects of it calm him down no matter what. If he is anxious about a test, he’d smoke a cigarette or go through a can of chew. It helps him fall asleep and to prevent his mind from racing. Needless to say, Jean-Claude got addicted very quickly.
Although he has been trying to cut down for a really long time, he still has to have one every day. If not, he will get really shaky and anxious.
“It’s a pain but that’s why I keep doing it,” he said.
A part of this pain is his parent’s disapproval. His dad has given up hope that his son will stop and his mom is trying to hold on to that hope. Despite their best efforts, including fining him $100 each time he is caught, it just doesn’t work. To ease the stress, he goes out and smokes in his car.
Cutting down and quitting has proven to be a great obstacle. The gum doesn’t work and can make you puke, which he learned the hard way. He tries to use less and less each day. But, this has proven to be difficult because of the anxiousness and jitteriness that he experiences. Jean-Claude tells himself that as soon as he is out, he won’t buy more.
However, this plan never works.
“It just shows up,” he said. “Friends will give me a cigarette saying, ‘Hey, I owe you this.’”
To guilt himself into quitting, he has a “drawer of sins.” It has 15 old cigarette cartons and over 30 empty cans of chew. He has over 200 cigarettes (he only keeps the ones that he finishes at his house). When he opens the drawer and sees it, he thinks about how much he needs to stop and how much his lungs are already messed up.
Cancer is in the back of his mind whenever he lights up a cigarette. He starts to think about all the negative effects of lung cancer, freaks himself out and smokes a cigarette to relax. The looming threat of cancer doesn’t bother him too much because he is only a teenager, he said.
But, still, he can already feel the back of his lungs weakening. While he’s not bothered constantly, the shadow of cancer is always there.
“It doesn’t matter how young you are,” he said. “That’s why I really want to quit.”
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the student.