By: Rebecca Ghent, 2013-2014 KYA Intern

Ever since I was a young girl I can remember a good portion of my family as smokers. It didn’t really bother me though. In fact, the idea of my grandpa out on the back porch relaxing with a cigarette was in some ways comforting to me as a young child. That was my grandpa at ease with the world.

Fast forward fifteen years and the above description makes me wish I had the power to change the past. My two grandfathers who smoked passed away within two weeks of one another. Both from lung cancer. My dear grandma who dealt with her husband going through chemo and surgery, and finally his death, eventually fell victim to the terrible effects of smoking, second-hand smoking. She lost half of her lung, time spent with grandkids and family, and finally her life because of constantly being around second-hand smoke.

These events have undoubtedly influenced my choice not to smoke, but my choice not to smoke does not end my chances of falling victim to its effects. According to The Toll of Tobacco in Kentucky, 363,000 children under 18 are exposed to secondhand smoke at home. About 29% of Kentucky’s adult population are also smokers, the highest in the nation according to a Gallup Poll.

smoking rates

 About 7,800 adults die every year in Kentucky from their own smoking. These numbers are startling, but as a state with a strong history in tobacco farming and production, our efforts are quickly diminished. In fact, the estimated portion spent for Kentucky marketing on tobacco is a whopping $271.1 million dollars a year. Obviously the tobacco industry represents one of the biggest investments our state supports.

 But what about the investment in our children, the future of Kentucky? Dedication to our children means dedication to fighting off the prevalence of smoking in our state. We cannot serve our children by supporting smoking. Every person in Kentucky has witnessed the effects of smoking. It may be a diagnosis of asthma because Kentucky has a higher rate of asthma than most of the nation, or a direct relative finding out they have cancer due to all those years of smoking. Maybe you are a smoker and realize that smoking is detrimental to your own health and everyone’s health around you.

 We are making some progress as a state, but it will take a larger majority to take action. How do we do this? First by understanding the facts and then advocating within our local communities for change. Maybe creating support groups for those who want to quit smoking, but need the encouragement to finally kick the habit. We all realize that smoking sucks the life out of people. It is time to erase the familiar picture of our grandparents relaxing out on the back porch with a cigarette in hand. Instead, let’s replace that past with a bright future of ourselves sitting out on the back porch, talking about the change we once made to better the state of Kentucky (with a sweet tea in hand).