I may not be the best person to preach healthy living because I do not have a body that can be used to advertise a health product.

But being a person with a disability, I am always annoyed when…

…I see people abusing their bodies unnecessarily. Stories abound about people who become crippled or debilitated as a result of their indiscretions.

I can understand if it is beyond their control. But it is hard for me to fathom when they are the architects of their own plight.

Have the warning stories served as a wake-up call? Not for everyone. Otherwise, I would not see a good number of teens in school uniform puffing away regularly and blissfully at Bishan Junction 8 – a place I visit at least once a week for a quick bite before my Malay class at the Ministry of Education Language Centre nearby. They must be aware that smoking can cause lung cancer, heart disease, strokes and other organ damage.

What’s more, it costs a lot of money to sustain the habit and can shorten lives. The repugnant photos on the cigarette pack and the warnings like “Smoking can cause a slow and painful death” are there to deter them from lighting up – but it doesn’t work. In other words, these teen smokers choose to destroy their body.

What a waste! Many people with disabilities would love to have a body like theirs, and swear to treasure it. Some of the teen smokers reading this article may argue that I do not understand. They need to smoke to look hip, relieve stress and to feel rebellious. They need to be different from others especially when they are hanging out together.

I empathise, as I am a teen too. But is it worth damaging one’s body for all that? Is it cool to have repulsive breath, smelly clothes and hair reeking of stale smoke?

When I first saw the teen smokers, I wondered how they got their cigarettes. I thought someone must have broken the law as it prohibits the selling of cigarettes to those under 18 years of age.

I was wrong. I was outside a convenience store the other day when I heard a schoolboy calling out: “Uncle! Uncle! Can you buy for me a pack of cigarettes?”

The “uncle” responded with a look of disgust: “You how old?”

I thought: “Does he need to ask?” It was obvious the schoolboy did not qualify to buy the cigarettes himself, hence the request.

I was aghast to see what followed. The boy did not reply to the man’s question – he just showed him some money, which the man took without uttering a word. He bought the pack of cigarettes and handed it to the boy. Both parted ways, the man richer by a few dollars and the boy a step closer to self-destruction.

Is there any law against those who help others make a mockery of the law?

Something must be done to stop such people from taking advantage of the situation. I would also like to suggest that school discipline masters go the extra mile to do their “patrols”, not only in schools but also at the favourite haunts of errant students.

They can work as a team and keep each other informed about appropriate measures to be taken to stop teen smokers from taking their next fix.

Having said that, I do concede that smoking is a personal decision. It is not for me to tell people not to smoke. But is smoking a right and smart choice, knowing that it will eventually hurt them?

(This entry was published in TODAY of 7 March 2006)