Yesterday evening I gave my daughter a cigarette and we sat down and smoked together. She is only 13. Shocking? irresponsible? Bad?
Well even I will admit to being shocked by the unexpected way it happened. Of course it caused me to question the example Cassie and I have been setting her and to think about how strict I should be as a mother. But I really don’t think I am being irresponsible or bad.
We had just cleared away the dishes after dinner, and then we sat down for a chat in the kitchen as we often do. I poured myself some wine and lit a cigarette as I usually do in the evenings and suddenly she asked if she could have one of my cigarettes. Yes, I was shocked (although I tried not to show it), this is my little girl after all! I could have just said no. I could have gotten angry at the idea that she was smoking and thought it was okay to tell me in such a casual way without getting into trouble… But I didn’t. I gave her a cigarette and we had a chat. She assured me that she didn’t smoke regularly but that she had occasionally smoked cigarettes with friends at parties or just on the way to school, and that she liked it. She said she had never actually bought any cigarettes and they were too expensive to even think of smoking regularly even if she wanted to. But she also said she had no doubt that she would smoke more regularly when she was older and that she didn’t want to sneak behind my back to do so.
As she was speaking I was of course watching her smoke with a strange fascination. I half expected her to cough and choke but she didn’t. This obviously wasn’t the first cigarette she had smoked. Actually she was inhaling in a disturbingly natural way. I couldn’t decide if I felt devastated, angry or rather proud…
Now as some of you may know Cassie and I both smoke and furthermore we feel quite strongly that adults should be allowed to smoke if they want to and we are against all the anti smoking legislation that is common these days. We like smoking. We smoke cigarettes and cigars sometimes and we even have an occasional blog called “Smokers Writes”. So I suppose we have given an impression to my daughter and perhaps to others that it is okay to smoke, despite the health risks. Is that a very bad thing?
Well first I am going to tell you what I said to my daughter and then I will tell you why. And perhaps I should warn that a lot of people may think I am very bad and very wrong.
Firstly I told her that I was pleased she felt she could be open and honest with me about this and that I hoped she would always feel that way. I told her I thought she was too young to be smoking regularly. I admitted that Cassie and I were heavy smokers who speak openly about the positive side of smoking but I also stated that we are undoubtedly addicts and that nicotine is very quick and easy to get addicted to and I didn’t want her to become addicted at such a young age. I said I didn’t want to think of her dying of a horrible disease and I gave her a mini lecture on the health risks of smoking (which of course she knew anyway). I said I was never going to buy her cigarettes or increase her allowance just so that she could afford them. However, I also said that I don’t mind her smoking the occasional cigarette and I don’t think it is a big sin. I said that she shouldn’t expect Cassie or myself to offer her our cigarettes at home or when we go out, but that it might happen from time to time. I said we would have great respect for her if, over the next few years she decided not to smoke at all and that if she decided that, we would completely stop smoking at home in order to make it easier for her. But on the other hand once she was 14, if she still wanted to smoke I would write her a permission to use the smokers area at school and that she could smoke in our smoking areas at home without having to ask about it again.
So why did I say those things?
Well firstly I don’t want my daughter to think I am a hypocrite. She knows that both Cassie and I smoked when we were quite young. I think we were both 15 or 16 before we were smoking regularly but we had smoked off and on for a while before that and I guess we were about my daughter’s age when we first started experimenting. Secondly I don’t want this to become a point of rebellion between my daughter and myself and I do genuinely respect her for being able to be honest with me about the fact that she has smoked a few cigarettes. I think experimenting with cigarettes is a kind of right of passage a lot of adolescents go through and I think it is important for me to come to terms with the fact that my little girl has reached this stage and it is important for her to know that I respect the fact that she is growing up. And for her to know that I will always love her no matter what happens. And finally the truth is I don’t really think there is much wrong with smoking cigarettes.
I totally accept that there are serious health risks attached to smoking. The idea that myself or Cassie may die a slow, painful death because of our smoking horrifies me. The idea that my own precious daughter could die in such a way is too painful to think about. But it could happen and I take full responsibility that as a smoker and as an advocate for smoking and smokers rights I may have made that fate a little bit more likely for my daughter.
However, I am not going to be a hypocrite or change my strong opinions now just because of this. I don’t think smoking is the social evil that some people believe it to be and nor do I think it’s risks to health are a reason not to smoke. None of us want to die of so called smoking related illnesses, but the fact is none of us really want to die at all. But we can’t change that fact. We will all die one day and not smoking does not guarantee that we will live longer or die painlessly. Cassie and I know of plenty of people who have died of smoking related diseases who actually never smoked at all. And sadly we also know of people who died young in accidents.
Cassie and I think that some sections of society are so afraid of dying that they have actually become afraid to live. Our opinion is that we have no control at all over how and when we die, but we do have some control over how we live. If smoking cigarettes adds something to the quality of life for some of us, then that is a good thing. If it adds to my daughter’s pleasure in life I have no objection to it. I think that quality of life is more important than quantity. Certainly I hope to live to be a hundred or more and of course I wish the same for my daughter. In reality such a long life is doubtful. But I hope that when the end comes, Cassie, Tina and I will all be able to say that we lived filly and squeezed every bit of pleasure out of it.
And finally of course I know that my daughter will probably read this. I have said nothing here that I wouldn’t be happy for her to read. She makes me immensely proud every day. She has been a beautiful and amazing child and she will become equally amazing as an adult and I will continue to love her without any limits.