To the Point for 8/25/2005


UP IN SMOKE. It’s the fall of the year, which means for those of us who travel up and down Main Street in Vevay on a daily basis, it’s the time of year when the streets are filled with school buses;

And the sidewalks are filled with smokers.

For years Switzerland County young people have leaned on the excuse for their smoking that they live in a tobacco-producing county. As the tobacco quota and other aspects of burley production are readjusted, it’s time for our young people to act in a mature way when it comes to tobacco.

First of all, it is illegal for a person under age 18 to possess or use tobacco products. Go into a store, and you’ll find that it’s illegal for young people to purchase tobacco products.

But for some reason, go down Main Street just after 3 p.m. on any school day, and you’ll see sidewalks filled with kids walking home after school, and a large majority of them are smoking cigarettes.

Some don’t even wait until they get off school property, as they light up as they walk down the sidewalk in front of the middle school and Jeff-Craig elementary.

And it’s not just high schoolers. More and more the smokers and getting younger and younger, and I simply can’t understand why we let it happen.

When I was a kid, there were kids in my high school who smoked. There were probably a few in my junior high school, too, but I never knew who they were.

Those who did smoke were very careful about getting caught; choosing to smoke hidden away so that no one — especially parents — found out about their habit.

This week, as I drove by at least a dozen smokers leaving school, I was struck by the fact that the kids are bold about their addiction. They aren’t hiding what they’re doing, and are very matter-of-fact about their preference for smoking as they walk proudly down the street.

Someone, anyone, needs to stand up and tell these kids that there’s no place for their smoking habit in public — or in private for that matter.

Minors being in possession of a tobacco product is a crime, so why aren’t we bothering to enforce that law?

It could be that it’s a gray area: is it a school problem or a police problem? If they’re on school property, then it’s initially a school problem, but kids who are caught with cigarettes in school and turned over to the town police for a citation.

Once off school property, then it becomes a situation for the town police, but Marshal Brian Morton and his deputies are busy trying to control traffic at a busy time of the day.

So who needs to patrol this matter?

All of us.

If you’re driving down the street and you see kids smoking, you need to report it. If you know the names of the kids, give those names to the authorities. If you don’t know their names, then give a description along with the time and street location to school and local authorities.

Now before you start calling me a snitch, I believe that we all need to be mindful that we are talking about a potentially deadly habit for these children.

Many older county residents began smoking before the Surgeon General made his findings public in the early 1960s. By the time that many people found out how deadly cigarettes were, they were already hooked.

Many of those people try all different methods and spend thousands of dollars trying to break the habit before it’s too late and they start battling another foe — cancer.

What amazes me is that our children today have more information at hand than any other generation of people throughout history. They have access to data and studies that show that smokers run a high risk of cancer and other lung ailments.

Chewers now know that they are highly likely to develop cancers of the mouth. Cigar and pipe smokers now know that they are not partaking in a “safe” alternative to cigarettes.

If a child was drowning in the Ohio River; or walking into heavy traffic, we would do whatever was necessary to save them.

Now is the time for us to do the same thing with minors who are smoking.

If education isn’t working, then we need to take drastic measures to get them away from cigarettes. That may mean talking to them in a frank and direct manner.

It may also mean that you give their name to the school principal or superintendent and let them pay the consequences.

Children don’t seem to care if you know that they are smoking or not. Maybe it’s time to show them that we indeed do care about them and their health.


Drive down Main Street around 3 p.m., or stand in your front yard; and take notice of middle schoolers and some elementary schoolers who are walking along and smoking like they haven’t a care in the world.

Then give them a reason to care — however you have to.