Where there is Smoke there is Fire: Smokers and Substance Abuse

  2006       2002-2006      2006

It’s no revelation that the majority of people in the United States who smoke cigarettes began as teenagers. Here are some revealing statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2006 National Survey on Drug Use & Health on the fires beneath the smoke. 

25% of all cigarette smokers, over age 12, use illicit drugs verses 5% of non-cigarette smokers.

43% of cigarette smokers binge drink verses 16% of non-cigarette smokers.

From 2002 to 2006 10.7 million people began smoking cigarettes for the first time. 7 million, or 65% of these new smokers, were under age 18.

The next time you see four high school aged kids smoking cigarettes know that, according to current statistics, one of them uses illicit drugs and two of them binge drink.

The good news is they can quit, but what these numbers don’t reveal is why they start.   

Looking back at my own teenage experience, these numbers seem accurate.  In my memory those who were heavy drinkers and those who smoked whatever they could get their hands on, wanted to feel something. They wanted to feel connected while they passed through a twisted age of disillusionment. Many of them were smart, they could see through the hypocrisy in adults and their minds never stopped trying to figure out solutions to their problems. Unfortunately they were often treated with disdain, taught double standards, and left to fend for themselves by parents who were emotionally absent.  

Of course I’m generalizing. There are plenty of teenagers who don’t experience any of this and make it to adulthood just fine.  Yet, I wonder if you can look at your kids and see their future? Can you tell which one is most likely to be the kid who smokes, drinks, and uses drugs? If you think you can tell, or if you can’t tell, what are you going to do? What are you going to change about yourself, today, to make a difference? What is the trade off?

Smoking is not the end of the world but it is a sign of greater fires below. Help your children so they don’t grow up dowsing their flames of sorrow and anger with alcohol or whatever else the piper is peddling.

Physics and Matchbox Cars

In the late 1970’s my father taught physics at Emory University. Occasionally he would take me to work with him on Saturday mornings and while he worked in his office, I would play with the physics department’s matchbox cars and race tracks. As a kindergartener I was amazed that they used toys to teach to college students. I was thrilled the first time my Dad opened a closet in one of the class rooms and I saw more bendable track and connecter pieces than I could have imagined. How could this possibly be used to teach science I thought? Surely they must be used for recess or an ‘after school’ program. Then my Dad explained it to me.

The cars and tracks were used to demonstrate the effects of what he called “G force”. If a car moved fast enough it would stay on the upside down looping track. If not it would fall off. The G forces kept the car on the track. The department bought enough track so each student could participate in the experiments. It took almost as long for you to read the last three lines as it did for him to explain the whole thing, and I got it. The term G force was new to me but I knew exactly what he was talking about. G forces were what made the difference between a good track and a great track. Now that “greatness” had a name and I told all my friends about G forces and the unbelievable amount of track they had in a physics room closet at Emory.

That was my first lesson in the power of creative teaching. Making connections between objects that came from completely different worlds, so clearly, that they tell the story themselves and the learner truly gets it and retains it.

The LN2 tank in the basement was fun too but that’s another story.