When I was 16 years old, I had been a daily smoker for five years. My daily consumption was roughly a pack a day, and while I didnít hide the fact that I was a smoker, I didnít flaunt it, either. That meant that I had the good sense to not try smoking on school grounds unless I was absolutely sure I wouldnít get caught. The worst person to have catch you was a PE and health teacher Iíll call Coach W. She was in her 40ís and a rabid anti-smoker. Getting caught by Coach W meant a week of after-school detention, running 30 minutes of goat trails every day for two weeks, and a two hour, highly informative and rather gruesome lecture about how injurious smoking is to your health.
One day a friend and I were leaving campus by way of the rear gate instead of the main entrance. No one was around and about 100 feet short of the gate we decided to light up. We had stayed late for some project, hadnít had a cigarette for over eight hours, and didnít think there was any risk. We were wrong. Coach W appeared out of nowhere and busted us. The next day we reported to the girlsí locker room and were treated to the lecture. It was not over-the-top anti-smoking propaganda, but it was detailed and in-depth. I think I learned as much about emphysema then as I did in medical school. Then we ran goat trails. Hearts hammering away against our ribs, lungs heaving, we ran up and down the bleachers with images of our corrupted lungs dancing in our heads. It had no effect on our desire and determination to smoke, but it did make us think. As soon as we were one step off campus, we lit cigarettes, inhaled as deeply as possible, and mentally gave the b**ch the finger.
I recently learned that Coach W died last week at age 63 Ė from lung cancer.