DR. WALLACE: Everybody should know that smoking is harmful to your health. Why, then, do so many teens still smoke? You can hardly use a restroom between classes or during lunch breaks because they are jammed with smokers. It seems the teachers don't even try to enforce the no smoking rules. Besides the smoking, I see a ton of vaping in the bathrooms, too. What gives? — Choking on Secondhand Smoke, via email
CHOKING ON SMOKE: I blame it on the belief that smoking brings sophistication and maturity, combined with teens' propensities to think they're invincible. Some see it as a status symbol; others feel it gives them an outlaw aura or shows how anti-establishment they are. In any case, it's quite unwise to smoke at all. Study after study demonstrates the dangers of smoking and inhaling any substance into the lungs. And now we also see that vaping can be quite dangerous, even lethal, depending on what is inhaled and what source it was acquired from.
Big tobacco companies spend millions of dollars encouraging teens to light up in the hopes that they will become lifelong customers. Their campaigns in previous decades aimed at young adults have proven successful, but the social awareness about the dangers of smoking has slowed the momentum recently. Even so, each day in the U.S., about 2,000 youths under 18 years of age smoke their first cigarette, and more than 300 youths under 18 years of age become daily cigarette smokers.
I must add that I'm surprised your school hasn't enforced rules to keep the restrooms smoke-free. There's no excuse for this; it can and should be done. It might be time to launch a parent-student campaign to demand the school administrators act responsibly and eliminate smoking on your campus. No young person attending a public (or private!) school should ever be subjected to secondhand smoke in a school bathroom.
WHO CAN EVALUATE MY SONGS?
DR. WALLACE: I've recently written a few songs and have been told by friends and family that they are very good. I don't really have a good singing voice, but I can play piano and keyboard pretty well. I'm an 18-year-old high school senior.
Am I just kidding myself, or is there a possibility that someone would like my songs enough to sing them? I really love writing songs and humming melodies to them. I sing along to the radio in my car every day, even though I know my voice is not suitable to be a lead singer. However, I feel that I can really contribute to the field of music with my song ideas. What should I do to advance my hobby a little further? — Songwriter at Heart, via email
SONGWRITER: Yours is an interesting question. The field of music is wide and varied these days. It has never been easier for musicians to get their music out to the public, but perhaps it has never been harder for young musicians to secure a recording contract.
There are several options you can consider. First of all, depending on the style or genre of your songs, seek local bands that play this style of music. Approach some of the band members with your songs to gauge their reaction. You never know what type of reaction you'll get if you don't reach out, so do so no matter what reaction(s) you may receive.
Another avenue would be to join a local songwriters group. There are many available across our nation. Also, speak to the head of the music department at your high school, and even at local community colleges. Many of these teachers would be happy to evaluate your writing, provide you guidance and give you ideas on how to move forward in this field.
If you have a true interest in a career path as a songwriter, strong enough to do it full time, then my recommendation would be for you to take as many classes as you can in this field (a community college is a great place to start) and network with like-minded individuals. Good luck to you; I hope we hear one of your hit songs in the near future!
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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