The Grand Futures Youth Essay Contest was open to 6th- through 12th-grade students in both East and West Grand school districts on the subject of why they choose to be tobacco free. For his winning essay, Jesse Woolley, a 12th-grader at Middle Park High School, was awarded a new iPad donated to the contest by the Grand Foundation. There were a total of 14 entries, with the top three selected by a team of seven judges, including Sky-Hi News editor Tonya Bina, and representatives from Grand Futures, Grand County Rural Health Network, Grand County Public Health, Colorado Connections Academy, and the Grand County Tobacco Prevention Coordinator Tara Owens, who organized the contest. The Colorado Department of Public Health was also a sponsor. Following are the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners, followed by the remaining essays in no particular order.
Inside a Smoker
By Jesse J. Woolley 12th grade at Middle Park High School
When I sat down to write this essay, my mind blazed with ideas on how to have fun with writing this. I was going to type five hundred words on how I was afraid of dragons, but I realized: Smoking isn’t a laughing matter. In today’s high school subcultures, it’s astonishing that there are kids that don’t smoke by their senior year, and how this came to be is just as marvelous. The influences pressed on myself and people like me are fantastic, and how we were convinced smoking is taboo is both relevant and vital to helping others to follow in our footsteps.
School’s anti-drug abuse programs certainly had a hand in my abstaining from tobacco. Since I was in kindergarten, my class would watch videos, and sit through class lectures about how dangerous smoking can be. Programs like DARE put banners everywhere, and gave kids a way to stand against tobacco together, while feeling like they’re part of something more than themselves.
My school’s efforts didn’t stop there. In the fifth grade, my class had the privilege of dissecting sheeps’ lungs. We were split into groups of five, and each group was given one healthy, normal lung, as well as one black, diseased, willowed lung, that was meant to simulate what would happen if sheep smoked cigarettes daily. It was quite possibly the most disgusting thing anyone in my grade had seen, and I vaguely remember fits of nausea from my peers. At the time, I thought it cruel to subject students to such experiences; but looking back, I realize that it had a profound impact on students.
My third memory that has influenced my not smoking is an ongoing conversation with my father. He has been a smoker since high school. While does sound awful, I believe most men his age were encouraged to smoke as children. However, this is not something he is proud of. As long as I can remember, my father has made the conscious decision to never smoke in my presence; and as soon as I was capable of speech, he would tell me almost monthly, “Don’t be a smoker like me.” I’ve always seen my father as a man of strong will, and so seeing him grapple with his attempts to quit have had a powerful impact on my perception of smoking.
Smokers are a dieing breed. The impressionable youths of today are no longer the audience of cartoons and advertisements encouraging the once popular pastime, but instead, are told from a young age by organizations like DARE, and by veterans like my father, that smoking is not a laughing matter. All my life, I’ve been told smoking is a health hazard, and its facade as a “cool” pastime was a lie. I’ve seen the inside, both literally and figuratively, of a long time smoker, and that has been enough for me to avoid smoking like the plague.
I am tobacco free
By Sarah Lynn Hough: 6th grade at East Grand Middle School
There are several reasons why I choose to be ‘tobacco free’. For one, I feel that tobacco is a serious health issue. No one of any age should smoke. It ruins the inside and outside of the body. It seems very logical not to ever start smoking.
I choose to be tobacco free so my lungs will not get covered in black tar. Though it would take an x-ray to see that, it does not mean that it does not exist. I also do not want to get a raspy voice or have trouble breathing as I age.
Many teens start smoking illegally in high school or younger, and become addicted. They usually start because of peer pressure to ‘fit in’. Or ‘family issues’ push them into thinking that smoking will make them ‘feel better’.
Tobacco has endless amounts of poisons. If you choose to smoke a cigarette, you would be choosing to breathe in poisons such as battery acid, rat poison, carcinogenic chemicals, and there is also embalming fluid that preserves dead bodies. That’s certainly not something I would choose to inhale into my body.
The nicotine in cigarettes causes the user to quickly become addicted. Meaning, if a smoker went a certain time without smoking, they are cranky until they get another cigarette. An addicted smoker usually spends their last dollar on a pack or even gets desperate enough to get ‘used’ cigarette butts out of the trash to smoke if they don’t have money. Smoking strangers used cigarettes can lead to other problems, such as, the spreading of viruses. When you choose to smoke, you don’t realize all the possible consequences.
Smoking cigarettes also makes it hard to get a job. Your breath and clothes will stink. No amount of toothpaste or perfume can cover a constant smoker’s smell. That would cause non-smokers to most often not hang out with you. I like smelling fresh and clean around people, so I choose to not smell like an ashtray.
People I know who smoke, truly tend to disgust me. I think that people who smoke are asking for death, and I certainly am not. I think that a pack of cigarettes is a suicide mission in the making.
One of the reasons you cough when you smoke is because your body doesn’t want the smoke in your lungs and tries to cough it out. Most people don’t listen to their bodies and keep on smoking. They try to harm themselves on purpose. That’s a choice I will not choose to make.
If each person took the time to read, or do some research about cigarettes, I would think they would be concerned enough to stop. Each person has the ability to make healthy decisions for themselves and the people around them.
Due to these reasons, this is why I choose not to EVER smoke tobacco in my life. I hope that I can be a mentor to others to care enough to choose ‘Health over Death’.
Why I Chose to be Tobacco Free
By Emily Hoffmeister, 7th Grade at East Grand Middle School
Death! That’s the sad reality when you choose to smoke tobacco. One out of every five people who smoke in the US die from smoking related complications. Smoking tobacco effects your bodies functions from head to toe. People who smoke can’t possibly feel good about the choices they are making. The next time anyone things about picking up a cigar or cigarette, they should think again.
If you have any hopes for a long and healthy life, then I can promise you tobacco is not in that picture. Every cigarette you have takes five and a half minutes off your life. Do you know that sports team you want to be on? Well, imagine this. Your about to make the team then you stop short, hunched over, huffing and puffing, fighting for air. That’s what it is like every day for a smoker. Always stopping short of their dream for a simple breath of air. Sometimes when its really bad they can’t even simply stand up, and when they can, there will always be an air tank right by them. The air tank is the only reason they are still here.
The physical changes in a smokers appearance is one of the most severe. Most users experience wrinkles at a very early age. Some people also experience gum cancer causing their teeth to be removed. They are left toothless and unable to chew or speak properly. On a more personal note, my grandpa grew a tumor on his face from smoking. Now he has a face that is lopsided and half of it is paralyzed. He also has an oxygen tank.
Most people when thinking of a smoker only see the physical effects, but what they don’t see are all the mental effects. For instance, they are addicted to tobacco. All they crave are cigarettes, like I crave chocolate. Some teenagers start to smoke because they are depressed. What they may not realize is that smoking causes depression. So the more they smoke the more depressed they get. Instead of cigarettes causing happy thoughts and good feelings, they often do the opposite and cause suicidal thoughts, and it has been studied that kids that smoke regularly in high school and college have a lower grade average then a B.
Not only do the kids who smoke tend to have lower grades, they are also not socially happy. Some reasons are: yellow teeth, breath, hair, and clothes that smell of smoke, and yellow nails. These affects cause them to be less confident; therefor, smokers step back in social situations.
Now that you know the sad reality of tobacco I hope this makes you think again about starting to smoke. If you are a smoker, I hope you realize what bad damage you are doing to your body. If any of your friends or family smoke, I hope you can help them through it. I choose to be tobacco free to have a long healthy life doing the things I love and being who I love. So join me and be tobacco free.
Why I am tobacco free
By Lydia Anderson, 11th grade at Middle Park High School
I am confused. Why do people ask me, why I am tobacco free? That question could also say, why don’t I jump off a cliff? And the answer would stay the same, because I do not want to die.
Besides the fact that tobacco is repulsive, it also kills an estimated 5 million per year world wide. 8.6 million people live with illnesses caused by smoking. 443,000 people die from tobacco use and secondhand smoke just in the United States. That means that innocent children die because of someones addition.
I do not understand why people start. Maybe to be cool? Why sucking in toxins that will kill you is “cool” blows my mind. Some people say that it calms them, however it is really ironic because cigarettes are actually considered a stimulater. Others may say that they started using tobacco products just one time and could not stop. Nicotine is one of the many disgusting ingredients in cigarettes and in chew. The manufactures know that if they get you to just try it once, then they got you.
How is it that tobacco is legal at eighteen and alcohol is not legal until twenty one. I know that when people drink they tend to get a little drunk, and then want to go home, which could led to a car reck and possibly injuring and/or killing another person. However indirectly tobacco is killing people as well. The users, of course, could die from tobacco use, but also they children, spouses, grandparents, roommates, and any one else that lives in secondhand smoke conditions.
It is not worth your life, your children’s life, or your spouse’s life. There are absolutely no benefits from using tobacco. I think this whole object of “saying no to tobacco” is quite stupid; I, a teenager, should not have try and convince adults not to use tobacco. I guess it is not necessarily true that adults know best. I do not think adults know how much of an impact they have on the younger generations. Some parents do not realize how much their children look up to them. If tobacco users really love their community, children, teens, then they would stop using tobacco, because it impacts every person around the user. Unless they are looking for a reason to: die ten or more years earlier than normal, smell repulsive, live with life long health problems, and/or hurt the people they live with, then I do not understand why I have to try to convince people to stay tobacco free; it should be common sense.
I am Tobacco Free
Kayla Beickman, 7th Grade at Winter Park Christian School
I am tobacco free. I am tobacco free because when you smoke, you are basically smoking away the life you could and should have. You are making a choice that could and most likely will cause you your treasured life. And think about the people who are around you when you smoke or chew tobacco. What are you doing to them? Sometimes you influence them to use tobacco or you are hurting them physically, mentally and emotionally.
Another point I want to bring up is the family or those who love you that are hurting. When you use tobacco you are worrying those who care about you. Imagine if you had a family that you love dearly, and one night you go outside to smoke or chew and you are just having a wonderful time, but suddenly your lungs tighten and you fall and can’t get up. You call for help, but no one can hear you. The next morning they find you, but you are already dead. They grieve over your choice to use tobacco. They wish that they could have stopped you from making that one choice to smoke that cost you your life and the happiness of your family.
Every time I see someone smoke, I want to ask them, “Are you satisfied with what smoking is doing to you?” “Are you satisfied with what smoking is doing to those around you?” If not, why do it? Why not stop all the problems that tobacco is causing? Why not stand up to tobacco and answer the call to STOP and fight against the use of every form of tobacco.
Imagine a world where no one smoked. The world would have more happy people. It would be a time and place that everyone would always want to be. Now imagine a world where everyone smoked and chewed. It would be a horrible place where everything was dark and awful. Everyone would be sad and have all kinds of sicknesses and diseases. Now let me ask you this, “Which world would you rather be in?” “A world with pain and sadness or a world that is happy and wonderful?” Colossians 3:9-10 says, “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge, after the image of its creator.”
I am tobacco free because I know that I have a better purpose in life.
Don’t waste your life, use it!
By Jayden Bergen, 6th Grade at East Grand Middle School
The reason I want to stay tobacco free is because tobacco can cause many types of cancer. You can end up having a cancerous white spot on your tongue that looks like a cauliflower if you chew tobacco. We watched a lot of videos in health class about the effects of tobacco. The images that I looked up online, like real-life blackened lungs and gross, yellow teeth and bloody tumors, were terrible and hard to believe but they are true.
Cigarettes contain at least 600 ingredients and when burned, they create more than 4,000 chemicals. Around 50 of these chemicals cause cancer, and are poisonous. Cigarettes and chewing tobacco have lifelong effects. I know if I even try cigarettes once I could become addicted. When you are addicted, you can’t stop. While smoking and chewing tobacco hurt your health, they also cost a lot of money. If you smoke a pack a day, it costs you $2,176.89 a year (based on paying $5.96/pack). I would rather save up for my future instead of blowing money on something that will shorten my life.
Tobacco causes the lining of your bronchial tubes to swell which makes it hard to play sports because less air is flowing to and from your lungs. I know smoking would make me have less endurance when playing sports because the nicotine makes it hard for blood to circulate in your body so you will feel tired, which would be hard for me because I like to stay active and play sports like soccer and skiing.
I also don’t like how smoking effects the people around you. Secondhand smoke kills thousands of people each year. Kids can get asthma from parents who smoke around them.
Big tobacco advertisements are targeted at younger kids telling them it’s cool to smoke. But more people are realizing the harm cigarettes and tobacco can do. I don’t think smoking or chewing tobacco is a good choice.
I want to stay tobacco free because I will live a longer life and I would rather spend money on my future.
Why I am Tobacco Free!
Hayley Friesen, 7th grade at East Grand Middle School
There are many reasons why I am tobacco free. It’s dumb, there are so many bad things in cigarettes, and worst of all, you could die!
First of all, it’s just plain stupid. You can ruin your life in just one puff, and you can seriously harm others too. Say for example you’re 14, you could live up to be 95 years old. One cigarette can lead to another once you start and then you’ll only live up to be 43 years old! Second of all, tobacco makes you look gross. For example you are 12, next thing you know you are looking like a gross grandpa! Thirdly, it’s just not cool. It’s nasty. Think of all the stuff it can do to you! Lastly it’s expensive. A pack is about 5 dollars now. If you start smoking when you’re 13 and you could spend up to 15,000 dollars!! You could buy billions of amazing useful stuff with all that money.
There are over 2,000 extremely harmful chemicals and disgusting chemicals found in cigarettes. Urea, which is found in cat pee, in also found in cigarettes. Also there is a chemical that is in dog poop is in cigarettes as well. Ewww !! Why would you want that in yourself! 80% of cigarettes is tar. There is toilet cleaner, nail polish remover, battery acid, and nicotine is in cigarettes. Nicotine is the nasty stuff that gets you hooked.
Cigarettes can mess you up in long-term effects and instant effects as well. Tobacco causes your pulse to go up at least 25% higher. Also it causes you to shake a little more than usual. Long-term effects include cancers and diseases.
Plus you can get so many different types of cancers and diseases. You can get lung cancer and many more. I’m not sure about other people but I do not want cancers and diseases. If it gets bad you can even die! I don’t want to die! You’re basically throwing your life in the trash can when you do tobacco.
Studies show that tobacco can make you get really bad grades in school and you aren’t even allowed to do sports or get into colleges! Tobacco kills you brain cells faster than you can say “tobacco” and it reflects in your grades at school. Colleges don’t want you, you can’t have certain jobs and even your friends don’t want you around.
Overall, you die earlier, get rejected from a ton of stuff, end up looking nasty, having barley enough money, and eventually end up throwing your life away when you use tobacco. That’s why I choose to be, and am tobacco free!
Choose to be Tobacco Free
By Marilyn Modak, 9th Grade, West Grand High School
Is using tobacco a choice or an addiction? Unfortunately, some people start experimenting with tobacco in high school. Furthermore, some members of the American population have died from using tobacco products. The government designed an addictive, smokeless tobacco as an attempt to reduce smoking. American people today should be tobacco free by making healthy choices.
In schools, there are numerous signs everywhere saying that people are not allowed to use any type of tobacco. How do students start using tobacco during their high school years? Adolescents struggle with many changes: driver’s license, dating, academic pressure, and post-graduation decisions. Smoking temporarily relieves some of the stress of these circumstances. In addition, peer pressure is a reality for teenagers. Some teenagers’ parents smoke, so the habit is present in their lives daily. Although society encourages adolescent’s not to smoke, cigarettes are easy to access.
Tobacco is too accessible, and its addiction makes it a leading cause of death. Some people suffer lung cancer from smoking. Others suffer throat cancer from second hand smoke. What is the answer? Education! Throughout the United States, an effort to teach people about the deadly side effects of tobacco exists. This is the best method to help people make tobacco free choices.
In an effort to prevent smoking, the American government supported the creation of smokeless tobacco: chew. Unfortunately, the plan backfired. The nicotine from chew created new issues. Now, throat and gum cancer cases rose, and people became equally addicted to chew as they did smoke. Bottom line, the true answer to being tobacco free lies within each individual: the choice to live a healthy lifestyle.
Tobacco kills. Even though high school students know this, circumstances arise that encourage them to start using it. In addition, tobacco is the leading cause of death. Smoking and chewing have negative effects on one’s health. Choosing a tobacco free life style is the solution. Continuing to educate the public about the negative consequences of tobacco is the best step in attaining the solution.
I am Tobacco Free
By Megan Bausano, 7th Grade at East Grand Middle School
I am tobacco free. I chose to be tobacco free because there are so many people in my life who need me. If I chose to use tobacco I wouldn’t be able to be with the people I love. My family, friends, and other important people need me to love, support, and be there for them when times are rough. If I was a tobacco user, the people I love and care for won’t have me to give them love and support every day.
Take a walk in your family’s shoes. If your son/daughter was an abuser of tobacco and other substances and had passed away, how would you survive every day feeling the antagonizing pain that one of the people that you care dearly for has passed away? That is how your family will feel, so the bottom line is don’t use those substances!
Do you even know what is in tobacco and other substances? Rat poison, nail polish remover, embalming fluid, and battery acid. Do you really want all those chemicals and more in your body? Do you want the fluid that you put on your nails, to remove nail polish, in your body? You might as well drink the whole bottle of it yourself! Also, rat poison and embalming fluid all are related to death. Embalming fluid is used to keep a dead body from decaying. Do you want to be wrapped in that when you die? If not, don’t inject it into your body. Rat poison is used to kill rats; you might as well be a rat if you want to pass away the same way. Finally, you are not a battery! Don’t inject battery acid into yourself!
Smoking kills. It is estimated that 400,000 people die each year prematurely from tobacco and cigarette use. Personally, I don’t want to die and join the death pool of the 400,000 people who die each year. I don’t know if you do, but I don’t. Life is precious. Live each moment to the fullest because you never know when your time is up. You can’t control every aspect of your life and what can happen to you, but you can control if you choose to abuse tobacco and cigarettes. You can only control if you leave this life in that way or in a different way that you cannot control. You only live once, so savor the precious moments.
Friends are precious. If you use tobacco and cigarettes, people don’t want to be around you because you smell like the substances that you use. Also, they think, and their parents will think, that you are a bad influence to them and to everyone else. I personally am not friends with people who use tobacco and cigarettes. I am not friends with tobacco users because they are usually not nice people. They always have violent mood swings that are not safe for myself or for anyone else. I love having friends. You always have someone to lean on: people who can catch you when you fall. I would always choose a good friend over tobacco and cigarettes. I don’t want people to think of me that way and avoid me, and I hope you do too.
You can secondhand ruin your life. Your life can be ruined because you will be so lonely and nobody will want to hire you or accept you into a college. Also, you can ruin your life because you could die. Why would you want to risk your life like that? You are not only putting your life on the line, you are putting other people’s lives on the line. I wouldn’t want to be a danger to myself and others, and I’m sure you don’t either
There are many reasons why I’m tobacco free, but the most important reason is that I could ruin my life and other people’s lives as well. I’m Megan Bausano and I’m tobacco free so I don’t ruin my life and many other people’s lives.
Why I choose to be Tobacco free…
By Madison DeCicco, 8th Grade at East Grand Middle School
There are many reasons why I choose to be tobacco free, but 3 of the main ones are; I don’t want to die, I would absolutely loath having yellow skin and teeth, and I would lose all of my friends and my parents trust.
There are many horrible things that will result from the use of tobacco and I would hate for even just one of these things to happen.
Smoking would increase my chance of death by 80%, and most likely give me some form of cancer; such as lung, mouth, liver, stomach, and many more types of cancer. Though not all smokers will die or get some form of cancer, there is still a chance.
To have yellow skin means that your urine is not exiting your body. Since 80% of the human body is water, and when smoking you tend not to drink water, urine is used as a substitute and will spread throughout the body creating yellow tinted skin. I also would get yellow teeth or “smoker’s teeth” because of the nicotine.
The final and I think absolute most important reason I choose not to use tobacco is that I would lose all of my friends. My best friend and I agreed that we would NEVER use tobacco or even try it. As a tobacco user, when people see you they will be very rude, and I would be so embarrassed just to be seen using it. Also, I would lose my parents trust; my parents trust me a lot and know that I am a responsible person. I like that they are able to trust me, but being a tobacco user would result in all of that trust lost that I have worked so hard for.
To be tobacco free means that you are a strong, courageous, trustworthy person, and I believe that I am exactly this and I would hate to have it taken away from me just because I used tobacco.