From the Editor’s Notebook:
Hi, I am Chuck and I am a recovering smoker.
I started smoking cigarettes at the somewhat early age of 17. Well, I should actually say I started smoking cigarettes full time at the age of 17, but I had started part time around the age of 14.
When I was 14, my brothers and I swiped some cigarettes from my dad’s pack, just to try it out. A couple of times.
I kind of liked it. I?think I had the smoker’s gene. You know, it was built into my DNA somewhere to smoke. You either have that inclination or you don’t.
My dad smoked cigarettes and a pipe. His father smoked cigarettes and a pipe. And my grandfather’s father (Judge Byrd Hunt) was pictured in this column a couple of weeks ago and was shown smoking a pipe.
When I was 17 I started college and learned to smoke cigarettes and a pipe on a regular basis.
It was easy to do. Everyone smoked back then. Or practically everyone.
I have reiterated the story before in this space. You could smoke in restaurants, on airplanes, in buildings, anywhere you wanted.
My doctor back then smoked while he was examining me. I smoked in classrooms at Mankato State and during city council meetings I was covering, as did all the council members and the mayor.
Smoked in my car, in my home, at the bowling alley, on the golf course and in the clubhouse, in the bar, etc., etc. I’m not sure there was anywhere I did not smoke, except maybe church.
You get the picture. I smoked a lot. Two packs a day most of the time, especially if I was going somewhere in the evening.
Then on Nov. 4, 1976, I smoked my very last cigarette and quit cold turkey. It was about two months before my first child was going to be born and I didn’t want to influence my children with my smoking. And, I wanted to live long enough to see him graduate, get married and have my grandchildren.
It didn’t quite work out. Both of my two sons smoked starting in their teen years, because, as I said earlier, I believe the smoking gene runs in my Hunt family. At least for the males. Thankfully both sons have quit smoking. Mostly, anyway. They might cheat once in a while, I think.
I cheat once in a while too. After quitting cigarettes, I still smoked a pipe or a cigar once in a while. Well, OK, more than once in a while.
I quit the pipe, but still smoked the cigars. I still do, but only on special occasions and only rarely. But a cigarette has not touched my lips in 42 years.
Curse that smoking gene!
I bring this up, once again, because the Blue Earth City Council is debating whether to raise the age to purchase cigarettes and other tobacco products from the current 18 to 21 years old.
There are many cities in Minnesota which have done just exactly that recently.
The reason to do it is fairly obvious keep young people from starting smoking. Many people feel that younger children and youth around the ages of 14 to 17 who try smoking get their cigarettes from those who are 18 years old. And they say 95 percent of folks who start smoking do so by age 21.
There is probably a lot of truth to that. The responsibility of society should be to keep something as harmful as smoking cigarettes away from our youth as much as possible, by whatever means they can.
Arguments against raising the age to purchase tobacco are all pretty lame, in my opinion. Except for one.
If Blue Earth raises the age limit to 21, it may make little difference in the whole youth smoking issue.
Those who are 18 to 21 will simply have to drive the nine miles to Winnebago. Those youths under 18 will still be able to get smokes from their 18-year-old and older friends. That is because Minnesota state law has the age set at 18 or older.
So, the Blue Earth City Council might be able to keep a kid or two from starting that nasty, life-shortening habit by raising the limit to 21. But, it won’t stop the problem.
The real solution is to have the Minnesota State Legislature change the age across the entire state. That goes for Iowa, too, since it is only nine miles away, too.
There are five states and the District of Columbia which have raised the age to 21 state-wide. Many states have had some of their cities and counties raising the limit to 21.
Of course, some cities and states which have the age to purchase tobacco products set at 21 and up, have left the using tobacco minimum age at 18. Or if a person is in active military or in federal or state prison. Go figure.
The answer is the same as it always has been. If you smoke, quit. If you don’t smoke, don’t start.
But, yes, as a recovering smoker with the smoking gene, I know that is easier said than done.