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I had just finished my twentieth year. In those days, starting to smoke was a `macho' thing to do. It was like adult franchise, when one is considered old enough to vote in the country's election. It was like a rite of passage, when one moved on from being a boy to being a man, an adult. Friendship in those days insisted on being able to do similar things together. So, if one had the bad luck of being among smokers, picking up the habit was the most natural thing to do.

It was a time when tobacco companies were systematically hushing up the real details of the hazards that came with smoking. The first real indication that things were not that rosy came up when the `star' of a cigarette advertisement, one that had a lovely slogan about smoking being a truly glamorous and manly thing to do, died of lung cancer. Pretty soon, stories of others who died of respiratory ailments after years of smoking became common news. Even non-smoking tobacco company employees developed lung cancer and other complications. It would be another fifty years before tobacco companies admitted that tobacco plants were genetically modified to create faster addiction to nicotine among new smokers.

By the time all these came into the public domain, I had been smoking for more than twenty years. The addiction was so entrenched that I never mentally accepted that I had an addiction. My best friends' wife died of lung cancer despite never having smoked a cigarette all her life. Only much later did we realise that sleeping all those years next to him was the real cause of her cancer. We had heard of secondary smoke. He smoked everywhere in the house. But worse still was that his breath was poisonous for her, even when he wasn't smoking, because he was a chain smoker.

Another friend of mine, although not a chain smoker, was a heavy smoker. Famous for his deep guttural smoker's cough, over the years he steadily lost his physical capabilities. Being close friends, he used to confide in us that his sexual ability was on the decline. He had very bad emphysema and would be gasping for breath after climbing just a single flight of stairs.

Several times, I started on nicotine replacement therapies. But it was not helpful, because in my opinion it did not address my addiction. It only replaced the source of nicotine that my body yearned for. It was only a matter of time before I started to smoke again. I now realise that I should have continued with counselling sessions after the nicotine therapy.

Another friend of mine, also a smoker, had a heart attack. Being close to me and not having a big family, I became a constant companion. I drove him to all his hospital visits over the next few months. The doctors convinced him, with detailed x-rays and other materials, that the real cause of his heart disease was the smoking habit. Having been hospitalized for more than a month after the heart attack, the confinement in hospital meant that he naturally stopped smoking. I realised that if I did not stop now, I would only be encouraging him to start smoking again.

I decided to totally removed cigarettes from life. I got rid of all the ash-trays in my house and the office. I did not throw away the cigarettes. The first one week can best be described as totally terrible. My moods fluctuated from one extreme to the other. Every time that I very badly wanted a cigarette, I would hold a cigarette in my hand and stare at in closely. I would build up the hatred that I had for it, for having taken over my life so insidiously. I would then crush in between my fingers, grind in up in my palm and throw it into the rubbish bin!

One day, it struck me out of the blue. I realised that smokers love cigarettes because they fed their nicotine addiction. Nobody loves the smoke. In fact, who would want to fill their chest with suffocating smoke? We never see a smoker burn stuff just to inhale the smoke. It is the nicotine in smoke that they are really after. I discussed this with my friend who is a psychologist. He was very interested in my concept.

He said he would look into the possibility of coming with a psycho-therapy program which planted a hatred for cigarettes in the smoker's mind. But he warned me that it might not work because people might object to it as an invasion of privacy. Who knows? I hope he is not right. Anyway, I am happy. My life is now cigarette free. My house, office and clothes no longer of have a burnt smell.

One big change I have found was that food tasted better. Only then did I realise that the smoke that I had inhaled all my life was at a very high temperature. It was burning my taste buds. In fact I also realised that my sense of smell was never better. Even the smell sensors in my nose were affected by the hot smoke that I was inhaling.

Believe me when I say this as a previously heavy smoker, the only good that comes out of smoking is that it makes tobacco companies richer, and you poorer both financially as well as physically.

   

Answer the following questions using complete sentences

 

1.

From paragraph 1, what is adult franchise ?

 

2.

(a) From paragraph 2, what happened to the model in the cigarette advertisement ?

(b) How do you think non-smokers in tobacco companies developed lung cancer ?

 

3.

(a) From paragraph 3, what would have caused the friend's wife's lung cancer ?

(b) From paragraph 3, mention the two advantages of using mass media.

 

4.

(a) From paragraph 5, in two sentences, explain why you think the nicotine replacement therapy failed ?

(b) How did hospitalization helps the friend to stop smoking ?

 

5.

" ... it makes you poorer both financially as well as physically. "

Based on this statement, how would you describe the detrimental characteristic of cigarettes ?

Characteristic:

Reason:

 

6.

Based on the passage, write a summary of :

The circumstances that led to the smoking habit of the writer.

The different ways in which families suffer because of the smoking habit.

 

 

 

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Answers
 

1.

It is at the age when we can vote in national elections.
 

2.

(a) He died of lung cancer.

(b) Handling tobacco leaves every day would have led to the harmful chemicals in tobacco entering their system.

 

3.

(a) The secondary smoke from her husband and his breath must have caused her affliction.

(b)

(i) His sexual ability declined.

(ii) He developed bad emphysema.

 

4.

(a) Addiction to nicotine was removed because the nicotine was still made available from another source. Besides, the writer failed to continue with the counselling sessions.

(b) Smoking is strictly prohibited in all hospitals and their grounds. Besides, he must have been pretty weak after the attack. By the time he was discharged, he was already not smoking for a whole month. Thus, he would already be used to being without cigarettes Of course, there was also the fear of dying.

 

5.

Characteristic: Cigarettes create an addiction which drains both health and finances.

Reason: On an average a pack of cigarette is about RM15. Smokers usually smoke a pack a day. That works out to more than RM5,000 a year. Twenty years of smoking at that rate would be RM100,000, the cost of a small house. Hence it is definitely a drain on one's finances. Besides the addiction to the chemicals in tobacco, the health of lungs, heat and other parts of the body is also adversely affected. This is the drain on health, increasing medical expenditures in tandem.

  6. The source of the writer's smoking habit was peer pressure. It was a time when there was social pressure to do similar things to identify with groups. His friends were smokers. So, to become their friend he too had to become one. It was a time without awareness of the hazards of smoking. Besides, smoking was advertised as a socially fashionable and manly thing to do. Happily, today the advertisement of cigarettes and other tobacco products are totally banned. There are two ways that the smoking habit affects families. First, the health of the smoker and his is adversely affected. Secondly, being an expensive habit that raises medical expenses in the long run is creates a strain on family finances.
 
 
 
 
 

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Comprehension 1

 

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