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Column: Some mistakes can last a short lifetime

By Rebecca Burk / L’Observateur / April 10, 1998

I was recently covering an event at East St. John High School. It was late in the afternoon, so as I was leaving, other cars and buses were pouring out of the school’s parking lot.

As I drove down Airline Highway back to the office, I saw several cars packed with teen-agers, also driving down the road. Obviously, they were ones who had just gotten out of school for the day.

But one particular carload made my heart swell with pity.

There were five attractive young ladies in the car. They looked so happy. I remember that time in my life. Responsibility wasn’t a word in my vocabulary.

These five girls are probably popular and nice and have tons of friends.

And that’s not all they have going for them. For these five girls their whole future stretches over the horizon just waiting for them to grab the ring and make the best of it.

They are so lucky.

But the thing about these girls that really got my attention wasn’t the fact that they were young with a lot of good things ahead of them. It is the destruction that they are inevitably headed for.

All five girls either had a cigarette hanging out of their mouth or in their hand, flicking the ashes to the wind. If they keep it up they may as well flick their lives to the wind.

I know of someone who was diagnosed with lung cancer. This particular person, now middle- aged, has been smoking since their teenage years.

In this person’s mind, quitting smoking was never an option. It’s too bad that what finally made them quit was their diagnosis, coupled with the fact that they only had a few months to live.

Smoking is easy to get addicted to, but anyone can quit. I smoked in college because like those stupid high school girls in that car on Airline Highway, I too thought it was “the cool thing to do.”

Wrong.

It’s not so cool when your teeth yellow and you wake up every morning with a disgusting taste in your mouth. It’s not so cool to spend an average of $10 a week on cigarettes. And it’s also not cool to cough all the time and have a sore throat every day just because you purposefully inhale smoke like an idiot.

Like myself, these girls can fix their mistakes. I really hope they do.

Twenty years down the road, I don’t want to write any obituaries for people younger than me who died of lung cancer because they were chain-smokers.

I only wish the person diagnosed with lung cancer who has to live the rest of their life in a few months could fix their mistake. But, unfortunately they’re too late.

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