A Breath of Smoke; A Step to the Grave

“No man can put a chain about the ankle of his fellow man without at last finding the other end fastened about his own neck.” ~ Frederick Douglass.

The restraint a man puts on another man cannot come to be without a price. When black slaves in the 1800s were chained, locked in, trapped, imprisoned from the outside world, no doubt would this cruelty come back to haunt the master. Eventually the slaves were granted emancipation, and the masters who seized the key to unlocking the chains that detained the life of a man were never at peace with themselves; the lasting effects their actions had on their brother with a different color skin. Similarly, in today’s society, where smoking has continuously caused the deaths of 480,000 people a year in the USA alone, leaders of head cigarette companies, like Marlboro and Camel, are bound to feel the regret and remorse for murdering almost half a million people each year. Slavery in the 1800s and smoking in modern-day may seem like two completely different elements, but surprising as it is, both have two major ideas in common; in both cases a person has no control over the situation, and the victim’s pain and suffering in each scenario returns to the person who has caused it.

Slaves in the 1800s were forced to do hard work and labor for cruel masters and overseers just because the color of their skin was different. Slaves were usually African-American, and almost all slave owners were white. Some slaves worked in plantation fields all day, plowing and retrieving goods such as cotton while other slaves worked in cities and were called city-slaves. The city-slaves, according to Frederick Douglass, were treated better than slaves on the plantation, as they were fed better and overall treated better, but in both cases slaves were still never even close to being treated equally or how they should have been treated. Nowadays, every ethnicity and race has access to the modern-day chains of nicotine addiction. Smokers, addicted to this deadly substance, still struggle to break the addiction to nicotine. Smokers consume approximately 25 cigarettes per day, or one pack. That is about 9,125 cigarettes or 365 packs per year. Smoking cigarettes became most popular in the early 1900s, but even today smoking is still a major problem and substance abuse. The going-rate for one pack of cigarettes in New Jersey is $8.55 including tax, so a smoker in New Jersey would pay approximately $3,120.75 per year to essentially slowly commit suicide. Smokers’ lungs are severely pernicious, by the end of their lives there is only a vestige of healthy lung, and almost every organ in the body is effected. Cigarettes have a blighting effect on the body; every breath that a smoker smokes is just one breath less they will have to breathe, and one step closer to privation. But adding on to that, smoking does not only affect people consuming the substance of nicotine, it also affects 42,000 people second-handedly, people who have no control over who and what is around them.

Just as slaves in the 1800s and modern-day smoking have different obvious aspects of both lifestyles, they have two of the most important ideas in common. In both cases, a person has no control over themselves. The addiction to nicotine currently is a form of being trapped. Once a person starts to smoke, they are hooked almost immediately. Unless they have the motivation needed to quit, the noncompliance towards a company like Marlboro and Camel, that person will forever be under the influence, loyalty, immutable paying of $3,120.75 to get the supply of cigarettes they need just to get through the day. SalGal from the Health Central Blog wrote a first person description of her experience as a smoker. “When I was a smoker, each of my days was divided into cigarette sections.” She told the world how, for the tiniest accomplishments we experience every day, she would tell herself she deserved a cigarette. For getting up and making herself a cup of coffee, that was one odious cigarette earned. “After showering, lotioning and putting on my make-up, I deserved another cup of coffee accompanied by another satisfying cigarette.” When SalGal would get angry or upset, she “needed” two cigarettes just to calm herself down. As you can see, she was under the utter and complete influence nicotine can have on a person. But, while victims endure their own pain and suffering, the mental anguish of those that inflict such cruelty do not escape a similar fate of enslavement; this time it is manifested through mental anguish. For masters, when slaves were freed, it was hard for them to recover from what they had done to that slave and to get back to having a successful plantation or business without their helpers. For smoking companies, it is still hard to tell whether they feel pain for what they do to people or if they just have cold hearts. As Frederick Douglass said, though, a man cannot put a chain around the ankle of one man without finding the other end around his neck.

No matter if a person was a slave in the 1800s or a smoker in the 21st century, there will always be chains around a person who has no control over themselves and pays benefactor to a person or company who controls them. The two cases may seem very diverse, slavery and smoking, but when you take a deeper look you will see how the two are horribly alike and how one person can make fill another life with pain and suffering, but sooner or later that pain will come back to that person who availed another. Every person has their quirks and their flaws; many are forgiven; however, for a monster who has killed millions of people, there will always be a price to be paid.


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