By Emma Leedy
My nana and papa both smoked for many years, but they stopped before my oldest sister was
born because they realized they would not be allowed in the hospital to see her if they were
smoking. They quit about 8 years before I was born, but I still grew up watching them suffer the
Over the last 20 years, I’ve watched as my grandfather’s COPD gradually grew
worse. He became completely dependent on his oxygen equipment and he developed severe
anxiety related to his breathing difficulties. I watched him have anxiety attacks when something
would go wrong with his equipment, and I learned quickly how to fix, manage, and use all of his
My grandfather became mostly housebound and missed out on many special family
events and get-togethers, like my older sister’s wedding celebration. He would only leave the
house for medical appointments and his semi-regular ER and ICU visits. Every few years, he
would end up in the emergency room – and each time, my parents would do their best to prepare
my siblings and me for the likelihood of his passing.
The summer after the COVID pandemic hit the U.S., my grandmother, who we hoped
had avoided the consequences of smoking, became ill. She was diagnosed with an aggressive
form of lung cancer. She has been fighting that battle for the last 2 years and has now run out of
Take a moment and try to imagine what it’s like being an adolescent and
watching your grandparents fight every day to keep living, never knowing which visit with them
will be your last. Now, decide for yourself whether or not you want to be the cause of that fear,
stress, and anxiety in the people you love.
Smoking is a public health crisis. There’s no other way to say it. According to the
Cleveland Clinic, about 16 million Americans are living with some type of disease that was
caused by smoking (2). 480,000 people die every year from smoking-related diseases (2).
Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the US and is responsible for 1 out of every
5 deaths, including 90% of lung cancer deaths, 80% of COPD deaths, and 33% of all cancer
deaths (1). It has a greater yearly mortality rate than HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor
vehicle injuries, and firearm-related incidents combined and has killed more US citizens than
have died in all the wars the US has fought (1). According to the Cleveland Clinic,
people who smoke are likely to die an average of 10 years sooner than people who don’t smoke
(2). Smoking can lead to heart disease, stroke, almost any type of cancer (primarily lung cancer),
COPD, heart disease, chronic bronchitis, and many other health issues (1).
People who smoke have a much greater risk of developing long-term health issues and of
dying prematurely. This is incredibly damaging to their families, friends, and other loved ones
who are losing them before their time and who have likely watched them suffer for years.
Smoking, particularly in public spaces, also puts non-smokers at risk of inhaling second-hand
smoke. Short term, this could particularly pose a threat to individuals with asthma or chronic
headache conditions, both of which can be triggered by smoke, and to pregnant women whose
babies are in a very vulnerable stage of development.
The Truth Initiative is the largest nonprofit public health organization in America and is
dedicated to ending tobacco use, especially among adolescents and young adults (3). It was
founded in 1999 as the American Legacy Foundation and was run by Cheryl G. Healton, DrPH
(3). In 2000, it began campaigning across the country to inform youth and young adults about
the dangers of smoking (3). In 2003, the organization provided online access to more than 14
million previously secret documents regarding the tobacco industry’s marketing techniques (3).
They have successfully reduced teen smoking from 23% in 2000 to less than 3% in 2021 (3).
The organization is committed to reducing the use of tobacco and nicotine and ending addiction (3).
The Truth Initiative awards grants to minority-serving academic institutions, community
colleges, and women’s colleges in order to support them in becoming smoke-free (3). They also
have an online program set up to provide resources and information to people trying to quit
smoking (3). They have helped over 910,000 individuals to quit smoking (3). This organization
believes that the best way to eliminate smoking, and nicotine use in general, is by targeting youth
and young adults to create a culture where smoking is entirely rejected (3).
Everyone one of us can do something to help promote this program and these goals.
You can help right now by donating today at https://truthinitiative.org/donate (3).
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, October 29). Health effects of
cigarette smoking. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved September 12,
- Smoking: Effects, risks, addiction, quitting, treatment. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved
September 12, 2022, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/17488-smoking
- Who we are. Truth Initiative. (n.d.). Retrieved September 12, 2022, from