Remember that first cigaret?

Remember your first cigaret? Your last? And if you do remember your first, I also hope you remember your last. That there was one.

When I graduated from high school, in January by the way, because Sioux City, Iowa, way back then had two graduating classes a year, I worked for a professional baseball club until starting college in the fall. Farm club, Triple I League, Kansas City Athletics, for you sports buffs. And, yes, that's when I had my first cigaret, trying to look, and feel, older than my 17 years.

It was a Camel. Long before Joe Camel debuted. Because my mother smoked Camels. I don't recall what my father smoked, but he never quit and they eventually helped kill him. Mom quit, maybe 10 years ago, around age 80, and, despite 60 or 65 years of inhaling, can still breathe.

I did quit once, temporarily, when I was pregnant with our son. As I recall, my mother-in-law bribed me with $100 if I wouldn't smoke again until after he was born. I won the hundred bucks, but lost the battle.

My last? About 20 years ago this month. Michigan. With a one-stop visit on a Saturday morning to a hypnotist. There wasn't any particular reason. I was just ready to stop. And, still, two decades later, I still occasionally yearn for a cigaret. But I know one would lead to a pack, to a carton, and a lifetime of enjoying cigarets morning, noon and night.

I bring this up for a couple reasons.

First, smoking is still allowed in the State House. And, banned in all other public buildings in the state.

Frankly, there are a lot of really great old things in the State House--paintings, statues, marble, you get the idea--that don't deserve to be covered with smoky grime. Secondly, there's the fire danger. Not too many weeks ago, we had to evacuate the building when there was a fire reported on the fifth floor, in a restroom, a fire reportedly caused by a cigaret that was not extinguished. And, I'm tired of breathing other people's smoke in the halls.

But, cigarets are also in the news. I'm not about to enter the legal fray of whether companies are liable for your death if you, voluntarily, continue to puff your life away, or whether cigarets are addictive, and whether tobacco executives know more than they're telling us about ingredients. And I'm not trying to put convenience stores out of business, or cut into their profits. But.

I do want to share some statistics about teen tobacco use, because more than 3 million adolescents in America smoke. And, yuch, more than a million adolescent males use spitting tobacco. When do they start? Every day. Every day 3,000 young people become regular smokers. And 70 percent of them, ages 12 to 17, already regret that they started; 66 percent want to quit.

If you, like your Representative, started smoking as a teenager, you're not alone. Ninety percent of today's smokers began smoking as teenagers. But, we were probably older than teens who start today, because statistics show that the average use of first use of tobacco is now 11 to 15 years of age. Children are smoking somewhere between 516 and 947 million packs a year.

At, say, even two dollars a pack, that's some one or two billion dollars our kids are spending on cigarets. So what do kids do to "save" money? Buy one cigaret at a time. Because kids generally have little disposable income, they may only be able to afford one cigaret at 15 or 25 cents each. They're called "loosies," by the way.

Will laws help? Id's for anyone under 27? Permits for tobacco sellers? Fines for selling to minors? Smoking banned outdoors? Probably not.

We know that social attitudes are deep rooted, that change takes time. But we all have to realize that our kids are smoking. And, we don't know how to stop them.

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