Smoking Your Life Away..!

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Twenty-one days!” said my friend to me. “What’s with the numbers?” I
asked, “You fasting or something?” “No! I haven’t smoked for twenty one full days!” Even as I felt happy that a dear friend had finally put a stop to a deadly and fatal habit, it seemed I heard the sound of little voices all round me, and realized I was looking at soot, and smoke seared children. Ever, so often in my childhood, the book I read in the library was one called ‘Waterbabies’. It was a story of chimney sweeps, little children with long brooms who were shoved gasping and coughing up the chimneys of London, to clean the soot, dust and filth that nestled inside.
With long broom, ragged clothes and matted hair that also looked like ends of some wicked broom, they were shoved up chimneys to push at stubborn grease and grime and scrape filthy chunks of smelly muck and sludge from unyielding rotting chimney walls. Now I saw them. The chimney sweeps: They were spluttering and coughing and spitting black soot out of their little mouths as they climbed out of the book.
“There’s no more chimney’s to clean, why are you back?” I asked. “To clean human chimneys,” they said together. “We thought with the expertise we had, we’d help, but it is impossible.”
“Impossible!” they all shouted together again. I looked at the tiny chimney sweeps, their hair matted with filth, their bodies covered with yellowish red blood. “Down which chimneys have you been?” I asked, concerned. “Human chimneys,” their leader said. “We thought we’d help the world today, to clean the stuff your surgeons find impossible to clean, the stuff that’s stuck in throats”
“And lungs..” “Of millions of smokers!” “But we couldn’t,” they cried together. “They’re worse than the old filthy chimneys of London!” “There’s blood in their throats!” “Have you heard of lung cancer?” “Of course!” I said. “Eighty four percent of deaths from lung cancer are caused by that cigarette they hold in their hands and puff away with!” “My God!” I whispered. “And do you know what COPD means?”
“No!” I said a little uncertainly, never having been lectured by chimney sweeps. “It stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and eighty three percent of those who die from it are smokers!” The tiny chimney sweeps stood with their little brooms, and there was a weariness about them that did not come from work. “Tell me,” said the leader, brandishing his dirty bloody broom and pointing it to my face, “When you know what smoking can do, then why do people smoke?”
I looked at the little chimney sweeps and gathered them into the book again. “Do you know?” they shouted, “that every 30 seconds…” “Every thirty seconds….” they repeated shrilly. “A smoker dies of these illnesses?” I close the book on them and look at you and ask only one question, “Why?”

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