Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

18 November 2014

When the child needs to give the "quit smoking" talk

In sixth grade the anti-smoking message was drilled into us HARD. I remember health class going on and on about the dangers of smoking despite it still being a sign of coolness in the last 1980s. We were subjected to very graphic photos of black lungs and diseased hearts. Smoking equaled death. I freaked the hell out.

I became the most passive aggressive anti-smoker campaigner. Fueled by multiple viewings of “Mask,” I utilized Rocky’s use to hiding anti-smoking brochures around the house where my mom would find them. She rarely ever smoked in front of me, but I knew she smoked. It was weird because she did not quite hide her smoking, but relegated it to times when she was not with me. I even tried to sabotage her smoking by squishing the cigarettes she kept in the seat pocket of her van, while also occasionally stealing a cigarette. If these things were as evil and addicting as every one is telling me, but they are also so cool and sexy…I had to try them myself.

I was an utter failure.

I failed at my attempt to become a smoker. I could never inhale. I would puff and let the smoke escape my mouth before it truly infiltrated my lungs. I became addicted to trying to look cool. I am pretty sure that the real smokers in my circle of friends knew I was a phony.

I was also a failure at getting my mom to stop smoking. Just as in “Mask,” we had a confrontation about my brochures. She asked me why I could not just come out and tell her, “Mom, I love you, please stop smoking.” I could never answer that question. I still can’t. I am pretty sure that I shrugged and tried to say just that anyway. It was my mom’s superpower to thrust the issue back onto me and me failing at throwing it back at her. She went on smoking and I went back to squishing her cigarettes whenever I could.

Sometime in high school my mom figured that I was enough of a friend that she could smoke in front of me; specifically in my car. Armed with teenage rebellion I was able to tell her to hang out the window. “I tell my friends who want to smoke in here, if you want to hang out the car while smoking, go for it, but no smoke inside the car.” She laughed and lit up. I stopped the car and asked her to get out. I want to say she put out the cigarette and we drove on with our day, but I feel like she just went on smoking because she was the mom.

I never spoke to her about her smoking after she was diagnosed with diabetes. She made it clear that since I did not live with her, her health issues were none of my business. “What are you going to do about it?” was her mantra. Looking back I know it was my mom’s way of pushing me away. That is why I implore those of you reading this to push back. My mom was 47 when she died from complications due to diabetes.

I know this is my guilt speaking, but I do wish I had done more to talk to her about her health. If you have someone in your life that smokes and you want them to quit, just tell them.

Why not take this opportunity to invite your loved on to join the Great American Smokeout on November 20th? November 20 marks the American Cancer Society’s 38th year of the Great American Smokeout (GASO), an initiative to encourage smokers to commit to quit or make a plan to quit on that day. By quitting, even for one day, smokers will take a critical step to a healthier life that can reduce the risk of cancer. Need some assistance? Call the GASO 800-number (1-800-227-2345) or join the Quit for Life Facebook page.

And good luck!

This post represents a sponsored editorial partnership with the American Cancer Society. All storytelling and opinions are, of course, my own.

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