|added Mon June 19 2006 at 7:58 PM
|In my admittedly short lifetime, I've heard plenty of talk about drugs, alcohol, tobacco and teens. From one side is a hushed campaign to convince us that smoking cigarettes is a "cool" thing to do, from the other we have a vocal attack trying to indict marijuana as a gateway drug that will invariably lead to heroine, cocaine, and global warming. What you don't see every day is a reputable news source blatantly calling tobacco a gateway drug while maintaining a straight face.
The story leads with a heart-wrenching story of a girl's spiral into addiction. Her drug and alcohol problem was traced directly to the day she first smoked a cigarette: April 12 (I kid you not, she quotes the exact date). The story, which is headlined with a statistic that more LDS teens are offered drugs yet fewer have ever tried drugs, as compared with teens of other faiths, goes on to discuss illegal drugs and tobacco as though they are virtually the same thing. The saddest part is that news stories such as this one are self-fulfilling prophecies. As the social stigma attached to smoking meets and surpasses that attached to illegal drugs, we'll find that smokers *are* more likely to try other substances.
Let me back up for a second and remind the casual reader that I firmly believe that the phenomenon of marijuana being a gateway drug has no psychological ground beyond the likelihood of the person who dares try one illegal drug also dares to try another. The Mormon culture lumps all the heathens in one category and as teens gain access to tobacco (which only requires an older friend), they are treated as an outcast. If a teen is willing to blatantly disregard the social pressure to abstain from smoking, then what happens when he or she discovers that marijuana is less harmful than tobacco? Will a legal pressure really stem his curiosity? Once she's broken both the Law of God and the Law of Man, how long before she breaks the Law of Rational Thought and injects something lethal into her bloodstream?
For the sake of clarity, we should keep stories like these in their proper perspective. Tobacco did not lead "Sara" to take more drugs. She was a rebel without a cause and found comfort in knowing that she was being bad.