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Flashes of Memories


I called my paternal grandfather Pop Pop. He would have been 106 today. He passed away when I was a young girl, but I have wonderful memories of him. I remember him in flashes. Catching sand crabs at Dennis Shores on the Cape, working on some photography project in the basement of his house in NJ, teaching him how to make tape rolls when he ran out of double-sided tape (I am pretty sure he probably already knew how to make tape rolls), listening to him play piano and just laughing and having fun. He was a wonderful musician and grandfather.

My daughter still plays with the doll house he made for me and my sisters and we still have the nightlight he made for me out of letter blocks.

Heart disease did not kill Pop Pop. Cancer did. His death certificate said: "Carcinoma, primary site unknown. Of course, like many men in his generation, he smoked. Pop Pop, however, was a very logical person. In the 1950’s when the first reports came out linking tobacco to cancer, he quit. He did not want cancer. His father had cancer of the jaw that left him disfigured for the rest of his life.

As a kid growing up in the 1980’s, I always figured that the tobacco killed—or at least hastened the death of Pop Pop (as it probably did 3 of my 4 grandparents). However, I am also the generation of Joe Camel and many of my friends collected Camel Bucks for cool rewards. Camel Lights were the cigarette of choice (they were "Light" so they could not be too bad—right?).

Luckily, FDA has finally taken some small control of the industry and they can no longer use "light" or other misleading words to market their cigarettes. However, they can still market their deadly products. In fact the Federal Trade Commission’s latest report shows an almost 10% increase in their marketing budget. The tobacco industry spent $9.6 BILLION to market cigarettes and smokeless tobacco in 2012. That is more than $1 million an hour.

They apparently want more and more little girls to lose their grandparents to cancer and heart disease. They want more and more kids to get addicted to tobacco to keep up the vicious cycle and increase their profits.

I do not. That is why I spend my days in Augusta trying to create public policies that reign in the terrible toll of tobacco. I do it for Pop Pop and my other grandparents in the hope that the kids of my daughter’s generation know their great-grandparents and can make great memories that come in more than flashes.

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