What Would the World Look Like Without Tobacco

by Elpidio Estioko

As I See It
, this is a million-dollar question we need to know because the tobacco problem doesn’t only affect California or Hawaii but is affecting the whole world.

A tobacco-free society is an answer, right? Agree? So, do you support a tobacco-free society?

This was the essay prompt of the just concluded 2021 Essay Writing Contest for Milpitas middle and high school students in California, in which I served as a commissioner. There were 40 students who joined the contest, and their essays were judged by media practitioners and English professors.

I would like to highlight the winning entries who garnered first place in both the high school and middle school categories.

The first place for the high school category went to Tiffany Lieu, a student from the Milpitas High School. Here’s her winning essay:

In Puffs of Smoke
“Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death” (CDC).

My grandpa drives me home from preschool every day. He buckles my seatbelt before I’m old enough to know how. He shares his favorite wafer biscuits with me while he sips his coffee. While my parents are at work, my days are spent with him. But most of those days have faded from my memory by now.

“Smoking cause cancer, heart disease, smoke, lung diseases, diabetes, and obstructive pulmonary disease” (CDC).

My grandpa has immigrated an ocean away from where he first started smoking, and it has been decades since he stopped. His house is big but not enough to contain his coughing fits. He insists he’s fine. He holds off for as long as he can against our family’s pleas for him to stop living on his own. After several hospital visits, my grandpa moves in with my aunt.

“More than 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking” (CDC).

Hospital trips and anxious voices through the phone grow routine. But details only come to me in snatches from behind closed doors. All I can gather about my grandpa’s condition is that it has something vaguely to do with his lungs. They think I’m too young to have to worry. But they can’t hide how my grandpa has trouble breathing without a blaring machine. They can’t hide the hospital visits. They can’t hide those anxious phone calls.

“For every person who dies because of smoking, at lest 30 people live with a serious smoking-related illness” (CDC).

My grandpa is in the hospital again for longer than usual. My parents tell me I can visit when he gets home, besides, the doctors say he’s getting better. A few days later my mother gets a call from my aunt. I remember her tense tone. I already know what she is going to say. No more car rides home. No more biscuits and coffee. No more days spent together ever again. I never get to visit him before he dies. Cigarettes are impatient; they don’t wait for final goodbyes.

“5.6 million of today’s Americans younger than 18 years of age are expected to die prematurely from a smoking-related illness” (CDC).

Anti-smoking campaigns cover bus stops and bookend videos with their ads. Every adult I know constantly reiterates the detriments of taking up tobacco. But ZI don’t need their warnings to know what I’ve known since my grandpa’s first hospital visit. I don’t need to take a drag of any cigarette; I already know what death tastes like.

A great piece… indeed.

Here’s the winning essay of the first-place winner in the middle school category Preesha Somaiya from Merryhill School.

Why I Support a Tobacco-Free Lifestyle
What would the world look like without tobacco? Our environment would not be littered with the toxicity of cigarette butts.  Fifteen percent of our global population would not be dying from smoking annually.

Imagine yourself on the New York subway, patiently waiting for your stop so you can get off. But before you can do that, you must bear through the fetid smell coming from a smoker sitting across from you. In our world, more than a million passes away from inhaling secondhand smoke. Lighting a cigarette creates an undesired decision for an innocent person. A decision that can increase the risk for cancer, heart diseases, and other deadly illnesses for a person who may not have smoked even once in their life. Not only does secondhand smoke affect unknown people, but it also affects people that the smoker may be acquainted with daily, such as their family, colleagues, etc.

Next, without smoking, I can live a healthy, hygienic, and happy life. Living without tobacco reduces my risk of getting lung cancer, diabetes, heart diseases, high blood pressure, COPD, and more. I could go on to note more and more illnesses and symptoms, such as strokes and thirteen other types of cancer, but I can erase this entire list and add a few more years to my life if I just avoid tobacco. Additionally, smokers are not consented to attend restaurants, theaters, and many other places., So instead of giving a thought to where ZI can’t go and what I can’t do, I can just enjoy living with the things ZI love, including my family, books, summer, and lots more, if I just agree to make one vital decision – not to smoke.

Lastly, by not smoking every day, a smoker can save a significant amount of money. The average price of a cigarette box is $6.28, which sets a year’s worth of cigarettes at $2,292. As a teenager, money is something I am grateful to have. I can get whatever I want and can fulfill my wants and needs with money. But, why spend it on something that will harm me? It may take care of my problems for one day, but it will not take care of the medical bill that will arrive the next.

As I am approaching high school, I know that only I can make the decision to realize that the consequences and adverse effects of tobacco undaughterly outweigh the positive. Sure, people may say that smoking tobacco helps them cope with their problems by smoking their pain away, when it only leads to a boatload more, such as nicotine addiction, developing health problems and more. You only do live once, and why not do it the right way by living and supporting a tobacco-free lifestyle.

The Super Team of judges includes Benjie Fernandez, Lions Int’l Vice District Governor; Dr. Roman Dannug, former PUP dean; Prof. Rudolfo Brillantes; and Prof. Denis Marks for the Middle School category. For the high school category, the judges are Lino Caringal, Jr., The Urdaneta Voice Publisher/Editor; Augusto “Don” Orozco, Sr., Eagle Broadcasting Intl. Correspondent; Harvey Barkin, Editor, FilAm Star newspaper; and Francis Espiritu, Publisher/Executive Editor, Philippine News Today.

The contest was sponsored by the Library Education and Advisory Commission (LEAC) in cooperation with the City Council, Friends of the Milpitas Library, the Milpitas Library, and the Youth Commission. The LEAC commissioners are Yu-lan Chou, chair; Ha Phan, vice chair; Elpidio R. Estioko, former chair and commissioner, and chair of the Essay contest sub-committee; and commissioners Hellie Mateo, Nonie McDonald, Susan Loh, Therese Hoang, and Danah Arbaugh.

ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO was a veteran journalist in the Philippines and a multi-awarded journalist here in the US. For feedbacks, comments… please email the author at estiokoelpidio@gmail.com.

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