Dear Degrassi: Advice from Sam "K.C." Earle
This week's advice-seeker says:
"Well, me and my boyfriend have been together for seven months and he's great and everything. It's just that he has a vice that highly concerns me. He smokes cigarettes, and it bothers me.
I just don't know how to tell him to stop I'm afraid he will get upset and ruin our relationship. It's taken a huge toll on our relationship because my parents don't want me to be with him due to that issue. And they are also afraid that I will smoke cigarettes as well, but I'm totally against it so that will never happen.
So the question is how can I tell my boyfriend to stop excessively smoking cigarettes??"
And Sam Earle (K.C. on Degrassi) says...
"A very tricky dilemma, this one's interesting. First of all, I think we can easily agree that even one cigarette is one too many. Without trying to sound insensitive, it is, without question, a downright dirty habit that turns your lungs to swampy mush and that threatens to reduce a smoker to a familiar lump of ash, often at a tragically young age and after much suffering. I think that just about all of us have (or will eventually have) witnessed this first-hand, in something like the death of a family member for example. But the severity of smoking is old news, and so I'm glad you've already made the strong and crucial choice to keep your hands off the cancer sticks.
Yet despite the striking and indisputable nastiness of cigarettes, and no matter how many passionate anti-smoking class projects we do in elementary school, people seem to slip up once they hit their teens.
In fact, somewhere around 90% of smokers start before the age of eighteen. Since I just happen to be a teenager (fancy that!), I've always been inevitably surrounded by this phenomenon. Even one of my closest friends way back from grade one (You guys always roast the way I say that!... Elementary level freshman?) found himself deep in a puddle of smoke a year or two ago. There were definitely times when I asked myself how I could get him to quit - it's a reflex equivalent to the urge to pull a friend off a train track if a beast of a freight train were coming at them (in this case, at an excruciating speed of one mile per hour). I'd love to say that I found a perfect solution, or even any solution at all - if that were the case I'd transcribe it to one of those fantastic tube-shaped wizard scrolls, tie it up with a bow and send it to you by Easter pigeon. However, while my concern might have been appreciated at some remote level, or at least acknowledged (and don't underestimate the importance of the simple expression of this concern!), ultimately, it was his choice to drop the habit. He had the idea, he chose to execute it, he persevered in order to do so. Unfortunately, this was a couple years and a couple weeks in the hospital later, but what's important here is that he's arrived now at a state of mind and state of being far better and more stable than where he was before.
But I digress. When teenagers smoke, it's often a regrettable part of the usual ritual of adolescent self-discovery, an extreme side effect of insecurities and uncertain introspection, as I feel it was for several of my friends. It's understandable then why so many teens would push to the side everything they've been taught about smoking and any opinions they may have developed about it, in favor of personal experimentation: the focal point of young adulthood seems to be the creation of an identity. We are torn between conflicting internal forces: the person our parents and society have raised us to become, and the individual we hope to create independently. If we're clever, we'll find the parallels between these two selves and make reasonable compromises, synthesizing the two in order to determine who we are. Now that's a hefty task, and it doesn't happen overnight. It happens subtly over long stretches of time and life experience. I'm hoping that your boyfriend is still wobbling about in the realm of his identity. Then, the bad habit can become a learning experience; he just needs to accept the lesson it has brought to him and face reality head-on.
Open up to your boyfriend on the subject. Most importantly though, give him an opportunity to open up to you. Try discussing his problem, and don't be afraid to push him to quit.
Hopefully, your discourse will be productive, and he'll be able to move onwards and upwards. If so, then you'll have both grown as individuals and likely as a couple.
Eventually, he'll have to decide if he's a smoker for life or if he's not. If he is, then he has used this decision to define himself as a person, and he may very well be the wrong person for you in the long term. Remind yourself that you'll never be able to change who he is, but you definitely have the power to drop that sucka like a hot potato if he's not the right guy (seriously, if he actually gets "upset" when you confront him - PFFF!!!! - then the relationship was meant to be ruined; you have every right to communicate with your boyfriend!).
Go get'em! And just make sure that you start up the dialogue ASAP - life is short, and communication is your first step on the way to living it to the fullest."