by Andy Rooney

Tobacco has been part of my life since the day I was born because my father smoked cigars.

I loved to play football, however, and because we all knew smoking was bad for football players, I never smoked.

Smoking decreases the lung's capacity to take in oxygen. None of my friends smoked cigarettes in high school and all the kids we didn't like smoked.

It was a dividing line. We all knew which side we were on. It's one of the best things football ever did for me and my teammates.

Maybe it was because of my football coach that I grew up thinking smoking was wrong.

Coach Morris didn't want any of his players to smoke and none of us did. He made it clear we were not to smoke. The coach was a sort of hero and a good influence on all my friends who played football. None of them smoked cigarettes at a time in this country when many young people were starting to.

Many of my friends from those days have never smoked to this day. Smoking or not deciding to smoke seems to last a lifetime.

My father smoked something like five cigars a day and I hated it.

When we drove the 75 miles to our cottage on the lake, I sat in the back seat of the car and sneaked the window open. His cigars may have contributed to my early dislike of tobacco. I don't know why my sister wasn't affected.

She was five years older than I was and smoked cigarettes from the time she was 16. Many of her girlfriends smoked and I remember hating it and them. A few boys who didn't play football smoked in school but they were second-class friends. I've often thought how lucky I was to grow up disliking tobacco.

I think a lot of people smoked when my parents were young, though.

Its rather sketchy when cigarettes were invented. Mother and Dad must have had some other vices before Dad started to smoke cigars but I don't know what they were. My mother wouldn't have dreamed of smoking anything. I don't think many women smoked cigarettes when I was growing up. Of course, that has changed.

It seems strange that we don't have laws against so many of the things we do to ourselves that are bad for our health.

Smoking is certainly bad for you, but I suppose if I smoked I'd feel different about any attempt to inhibit me from doing it. I'd certainly object to any law that prohibited drinking alcoholic beverages responsibly, even though I know that, in excess, drinking is bad for you. (I say "in excess" to let myself off.)

They can make and they do enforce laws that keep us from driving too fast. Another major problem we have other than smoking is overeating, but there doesn't seem to be any law they can pass against overeating. Eating is beyond the law. I know I eat too much but I don't want anyone trying to keep me from it. I'll decide how much I eat. I know that transfats and saturated fat are bad for you, but that won't stop from eating butter, ice cream or cookies.

I do think that many people are born to be fat or to be thin.

Unfortunately, nothing is harder than not eating. I speak from personal knowledge.


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