A look at media and behaviors: Northern Ireland & Ireland vs. America by Kayla Wright

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After about a week of traveling through Northern Ireland and Ireland, I have done a sufficient amount of “people watching” to make some assumptions about Ireland’s culture and behaviors. I came to a list of similarities and differences (between Ireland & the U.S.) all the way from their lingo to the way their toilets flush. One of the behaviors that stood out to me most was how common it was for people – especially females, to smoke cigarettes. Though it does not seem as though the community entirely supports smoking, it is still very much prevalent. Cigarette boxes look much different than cigarette boxes in the United States. Here, the boxes contain graphic images of patients with throat cancer and even children smoking through a pacifier to emphasize the consequences of second-hand smoke. This is comparable to the U.S. as the U.S. has created advertisements deterring people from smoking, however, the U.S. is not quite so blunt about the matter as to stick it right on the pack of cigarettes. The media’s attempt, however, does not seem to be stopping the Irish chain-smokers.

Smoking has been on my mind recently as my father, a smoker of nearly 40 years, quit the bad habit just last month. He was suffering through a sinus infection to the point where he could hardly inhale without coughing several times. He said that when he stepped outside for a smoke, he could hardly breathe at the first puff. This moment’s feeling of breathlessness moved him to quit smoking altogether. He hated the way his chest congestion felt and knew that at any time he could be diagnosed with a disease in his lungs derived solely from smoking cigarettes, which would cause the same horrible feeling. Though it was not our nation’s media that influenced my father’s decision to quit smoking, the media is keeping him away from smoking ever again. After years of anti-cigarette changes in America, such as the inability to smoke indoors or in public areas, people have changed their views on smoking and it has become a matter to frown upon. Enough information has been provided now to educate people on the risks of smoking. I believe the media’s opinion on smoking has opened my father’s eyes to the way he once appeared as a smoker. He realizes now how after quitting; his temper has changed for the better. He realizes how much money he wasted to the habit. He also realizes how dangerous the risks of smoking really are once he was not blinded by his own addiction.

I will always remember the day when CVS Pharmacy announced their decision to remove tobacco products from their shelves. The local CVS Pharmacy had been my father’s #1 source for cigarettes. Though there was a gas station just up the street where he could purchase them, it was still satisfying to know that he had to make that much more effort to sustain his smoking habit. I was so proud of the message CVS Pharmacy sent out to the world where they sacrificed millions of tobacco sales in order to improve their brand image and stand for the health issue. If Northern Ireland and Ireland were able to make a bold anti-cigarette/tobacco movement such as this, they could get closer to reaching their goals of eliminating the use of tobacco products by their people.

Though not all companies have been as proactive as CVS Pharmacy, America has successfully managed to drive smoking out of indoor facilities and public areas, and they are beginning to tackle e-cigarette usage as well. I noticed that in Ireland there were several places where smoking was permitted indoors. I noticed this occurrence at pubs and night clubs. Smoking spaces were often equipped with a special ventilation system to manage the smoke aroma, however, the scent was still very much present. I noticed that if other people are around it, especially those who are intoxicated, they might be more inclined to try smoking or to smoke a cigarette indoors because their peers are doing it and it is conveniently right in front of them. America’s attempt to drive smoking out of indoor spaces was to make it more complicated for a person to smoke a cigarette because they would have to excuse themselves from the table or area and head outside for the deed.

In America we have created stereotypes for those who smoke which give smoking a bad name and deter women especially from wanting to be in that category. Females who smoke in America can appear as “trashy” or at the least, not very “classy.” I think this stigma stems from all of the knowledge we have on smoking and the harmful effects of the habit. I try not to be judgmental, especially because many people in my family are smokers and I know it is extremely addictive, but I genuinely want them to make a more informed decision and not to ignore all of the information we have access to. It leads me to think, “Do you care about your health and well-being?” “What are your priorities?” I remember feeling this way with my father. He is such a successful person and I just thought, why? Why is this a part of your routine when it is only bringing you harm? It is hard to believe an educated person would make such a destructive decision and allow themselves to become addicted to cigarettes. I do not think Ireland and Northern Ireland have this type of negative mentality on cigarettes. It could be true that smoking has become so normal, just the way it was in the United States just a couple decades back. If Northern Ireland and Ireland adapted to a more negative way of thinking toward smoking, more women would be inclined to quit or never begin smoking cigarettes.

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