“Even smokers don’t want to see their kids, nieces and nephews smoking.”
It is obviously troubling that any child of this age is smoking, but we are talking about less than 0.8 per cent of the sample.
This sort of thing increasingly gets me these days. I’ve half a mind to go stand outside schools and hand out free cigarettes to children. If kids want to smoke, then let them smoke.
All I can remember is that back when I was a kid, I didn’t want to smoke at all. And I didn’t want to drink alcohol. And I didn’t much like girls either. Smoking and drinking and girls were tastes I acquired in adolescence. We kids enjoyed different things than grown-ups. We liked different food, different drinks, different games, different movies, different books, and in fact pretty much different everything.
I think that my whole body chemistry changed at adolescence. Up until then I’d liked sweet foods and sweet drinks. After then I liked salty or spicy or sour food and drink. Quite apart from all the hormonal changes, maybe that’s something to do with stopping growing. Before adolescence, I was always getting bigger. Ever since, I’ve very slowly been growing smaller and weaker. Adolescence was like reaching the top of a hill: it’s been downhill ever since.
Another thing that gets me is the idea that adults are tough and resilient, and children are fragile creatures that need to be protected from everything. When I was a kid, I was forever falling out of trees. Or coming off roller-skates. I almost always had a remarkable set of self-inflicted cuts and bruises. It’s the other way round: Kids are much tougher than adults. Their legs don’t break so easily. Their injuries heal more quickly. And so on. If I fell out of a tree at my age, I’d break a leg for sure. But new-born babies get pulled out of collapsed buildings a week or 10 days after the earthquake that levelled them.
Childhood in the modern sense is a new invention anyway. For the bulk of human history, most children had no “childhood” to speak of. For as soon as they could walk and talk, they were set to work gathering crops, preparing meals, performing chores. Because their parents only really wanted children to share the burden of their work, and not as status symbols to show off to their friends.
I occasionally see photos of boys aged 5 smoking, but they’re almost always from third world countries where boys of that age are working hard, and have effectively joined the adult population. Maybe if at that age I’d had to pick rice all day, or carry bamboo staves on my back, I would’ve wanted a calming cigarette at the end of the working day. So why shouldn’t they?
I think that one of the big problems of our modern world is that children are kept outside adult life in ways they never used to be. They inhabit a world which is devoid of all responsibility, and in which they are entitled to everything. Is it very surprising if they grow up to simply not understand the adult world at all, because they were never part of it, and reject when they eventually meet up with it?
A lot of today’s noisy protesters (particularly in the wake of last week’s election) seem to be overgrown children. e.g. Russell Brand. They feel entitled to everything, and they all seem to live in a make-believe world, a fairyland, where anything can be had if they only demand it loudly enough.
The best thing that could happen to children is to be introduced and integrated into adult life as early as possible. Children love it. I can still remember being introduced, aged 7 or 8, to some old sea dog on a passenger liner crossing the Atlantic, and being astonished and gratified when he spoke to me as if I were a man like him, rather than a child of seven. Nobody had ever done that before. It was like being accepted into the adult world, and treated as an equal. He didn’t tell me stories. He just talked about himself and his life as if it were perfectly natural to tell a seven-year-old about it.
When children are integrated into adult life, we’ll at last be rid of the chiiiiildren.