Iain Simpson

Some stuff that probably isn't very important.


It's almost a biological inevitability, that if you live long enough you'll develop cancer in some part of your body. Something causes a mutation in a cell's DNA, and it multiplies. It grows, spreads, and consumes your vital organs until you die.

The treatment is drastic: chemotherapy; the treatment is poison.

We all poison ourselves to some degree - weighing up the pros and cons, deciding whether to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, eat fried food, or use other controlled substances. All come with an increased risk of cancer and other complications.

Of the legal ways to poison yourself, few can be as dangerous - and socially acceptable - as smoking. People die from alcohol abuse, either as a direct chemical result of its effects on the body, or through the actions of people under the influence of it. It's possible to consume alcohol in moderation and suffer no significant adverse effects - the same is not true of smoking.

It's a disgusting, smelly, poisonous, selfish habit, and as a lifelong non-smoker, I don't see the appeal.

My mother started smoking when she was 18 - she should have known better, training as a nurse at the time. Some of my earliest memories are of her trying to quit - taking pills that made her sick, switching to awful herbal cigarettes (they're even more foul than tobacco), and giving other people control of her cigarettes in at attempt to cut down. Nothing worked.

I have my mother to thank for my attitude to smoking - she hated it, but she couldn't stop. Seeing her struggle showed me that smoking isn't something that's worth trying - not even once. Obviously, you can't know if you like something unless you try it, but I don't want to like it.

The most dangerous thing I could have done while I was a teenager would have been to try smoking. My mother told us that she had nightmares that involved catching one of us with a cigarette - not monsters or zombies or death - one of her children succumbing to the same addiction that she had. She woke up angry with us because of those dreams - irrationally - that's how strongly she felt about it.

Smokers don't just hurt themselves, they hurt others around them. Smoking groups like Forest claim it's about choice - fine, choice to harm your own body. It is the absolute height of selfishness to insist that you be allowed to do something that could harm others, then claim it's about free choice. Fuck you.

Nobody could reasonably deny that tobacco consumption causes cancer in those that smoke, and there's evidence that it can cause harm to those nearby, too. I've never heard of someone dying from passive liver cirrhosis; yes, people die through the actions of others under the influence of alcohol, but people are prosecuted when that happens. I doubt there'd be much support for laws that prosecute smokers for harm they inflict on others - they won't even ban smoking in cars with children.

If there's even the possibility that you could be harming someone else through your actions, the correct thing to do is isolate others from your actions, not attempt refute the evidence.

My mum died just over 4 years and 2 months ago, at home with my dad, brother, and sister beside her. The diagnosis was two years earlier: she found a lump in her neck, and went to the doctor. It was lung cancer, and it had already spread to her lymph nodes. The initial chemotherapy slowed the progress of the disease, lulling us into a false sense of security, until a year or so later we learned that it was back, and had spread to her brain.

Living away from the family home, I was spared the trauma of watching her deteriorate, unable to control her emotions, and saying terrible things that we knew she couldn't mean.

I didn't visit her as often as I should have, but speaking to her on the phone every week, I could tell that she wasn't herself. My mum was gone before I realised, and it was too late. There are so many things that I don't, and can never know about my mum.

She died because of a substance that's legal and socially acceptable, and it wasn't a choice. She didn't want to die, and she didn't want to smoke. It didn't just kill her, it destroyed her.

Today would have been... no. Today is her birthday. Today should be about good memories, but all I can remember is the reason that she isn't here any more. I'm reminded every time I walk down the street.

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