Why do people smoke

My seven-year-old son is fascinated with smoking. When he finds people doing it, he fixes his eyes on them and studies their behavior. “Look! That guy in the car is smoking,” Joey might say while observing — well, staring — and soaking up all that is unfamiliar to him.
I guess that’s the job of a little boy — to figure out the actions that surround him. Which makes it the job of his mommy to help him make sense of it all. So that’s what I do, all the while hoping I steer him into adopting a repulsion for smoking and not an affection for it. Sometimes, when he holds a twig between his fingers and then places it in his mouth, letting it dangle with perfect lip control, I worry that repulsion is a long way off. Then I remember he is only seven years old. There’s still time.
“Why do people smoke?” Joey asked me the other day in the car, just after we walked by a man smoking outside a Walgreen’s drugstore. “Yuck,” Joey declared as he walked through the man’s cloud of smoke. “Yes! He thinks it’s yucky,” were my first thoughts. Then I did my best at answering Joey’s question.
I told Joey that people might smoke because at some point in their lives, someone asked them if they wanted to try a cigarette. So they tried. And they liked it. And maybe they don’t want to quit. Or maybe they can’t quit. One way or another, it becomes a habit, I explained. “Just like you want sugar all the time,” I told Joey.
Some people want to smoke all the time. Or not all the time. Maybe just once in a while. Still, it’s not good for you, I continued. Either is sugar. I told Joey that smoking — and sugar — can make people sick.
Joey knows smoking can cause coughs. He knows it can cause difficulty breathing. He also knows it can cause cancer. It won’t always cause cancer, though, I told him. But it might. And some people who never smoke — like me — can still get cancer. That’s why we have to make healthy choices for our bodies. Not smoking is one good choice.
Eating healthy and exercising are also good choices, I said. I told Joey that I’m not sure why I got cancer. But I know how I can help prevent it from coming back. So I eat well and exercise well. I sleep enough. I try not to get angry. I try to be happy.
I can only hope that Joey understands a speck of what I tried to teach him. I can only hope he sees my example and wants to mimic me. I can only hope this seven-year-old boy grows up to be what I want him to be most: A non-smoker. But he’s only seven. And for that, I am grateful.