Oh My God I cannot believe that the tiny red headed freckly baby is a smoker. I am so angry about this that I am almost incandescent. I finally gave up two years ago after fifteen years of smoking thirty a day. It was hellish but I did it. My daughter hated me smoking. She loathed the smell and my stained teeth and hands. She also has asthma. So why is she smoking now? It can only be peer pressure. Her new college friends smoke in clubs at weekends and she wants to be like them? When I ask her she shrugs and smirks and tells me I am making too much of it. I don't get it.
Alice Walker's fabulous Essay "My Daughter Smokes" in her collection Living by the Word is in part an exploration of the politics of smoking and the pain of watching your child inhale toxins and carcinogens; it also gives a short account of her father's death from pneumonia and his battle with bronchitis and emphysema. I shall be making my daughter sit down and read it. It will mean nothing to her and she will think I am stupid. I wish I could do better on her behalf but I can't. The smoker's need for a cigarette will nearly always overwhelm any common sense desire to quit. I used to long for a cigarette so much that I would be able to convince myself that I was actually warding off disease with the smoke. It is a vicious addiction and I despair for my daughter and her fine young skin and her compromised lungs.