I drove by my son’s high school a few weeks ago and with all the vibrancy of youth, a group of teens was gathered out front.  Sort of off to the side, as smoking is not allowed on school property but obviously students all the same.  They laughed together as they chugged their chocolate milk and took quick drags off the cigarettes that banished them to sights unseen by school officials.  Out of sight, out of mind, I guess.  What struck me about this little tableau was the dichotomy of the situation.  The innocence of the chocolate milk coupled with the insidiousness of the cigarettes.

These young people haven’t grown up in an era where doctors actively promoted certain brands of cigarettes as the healthier choice.  They haven’t had to learn the hard way about the hidden poisons that saturate the once innocuous tobacco leaves and the unknown ravages on the body.  They haven’t grown up with smoking being glamorized in movies, TV shows and magazines so that you felt you had no choice. What they have grown up with is the cold hard facts of cancer, lung disease, osteoporosis and the myriad other nasties associated with smoking that are not so hidden any more.  And yet, somehow, they’ve chosen to start their day with cyanide and chocolate milk.

What surprises me even more is that the very store where these kids get their mocha moo-juice is the same store where they get their sticks of formaldehyde. Or at least someone gets them for them as they didn’t look a day over 17.  They are choosing to brittle the very bones that their sweet treat could be building up.  They are choosing to age prematurely at a time in their life where looks are everything.  I’m sure the head shake that any reasonable person would exhibit when seeing this would be met with looks of disdain. What do we know anyway ? Our wrinkles are already here.

Maybe it’s what we know, and the fact that we ALL know it, that contributes to the shake.  Maybe it’s the fact that at their very fingertips, tucked safely in their pocket or purse, is access to information that only one generation ago required a visit to a library. Now it’s as simple as sliding across a screen that’s no bigger than the cigarette pack taking up real estate in these same pockets and purses. In an age where all generations have access to information isn’t it ironic that it still comes down to out of sight, out mind ?

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