Sunday, October 16, 2011

Maybe Smoking Would Be OK, If It Were Not So Bad

In a professional capacity, I have been tagged for a smoking cessation committee through the Knox County Health Department, so I decided to go public and blog on the issue.

I am an ex-smoker. I loved smoking! If some magic fairy princess came in and did two things, I would start smoking again in a heartbeat:

  1. Determined that it is not harmful to your health including your teeth and skin,
  2. Made the presence and smell of smoke not offensive to nonsmokers.
If smoking were not bad for your health, it probably would not be taxed so much; and I could justify the expense.

I smoked mainly in social settings (translation: I was drinking), and it kept me from eating as much. I grew up heavy but lost a significant amount of weight in high school, and have kept it under control for the most part. Smoking in my teens and twenties replaced a lot of chips and dip, and for me it was cheap. I started smoking in the tobacco-producing state of North Carolina, and my first purchase out of a machine cost me $.50.

According to Wikipedia, “smoking-related disease kills one half of all long term smokers but these diseases may also be contracted by non-smokers. A 2007 report states that about 4.9 million people worldwide each year die as a result of smoking.”

Unfortunately I prematurely lost one of the people I loved the most to smoking.

My mother started smoking in the 1940s when she started dating my dad, as he was a smoker (note: he quit in the 1960s). My childhood memories are laced with recollections of loose tobacco littering the bottom of her purse and often working its way into her compact and sticking to her lipstick, a few burns on the arms of her favorite family room chair, and an increasing household consumption of Kleenex as her coughing got worse. A couple of years after my dad died, she decided to quit. Some weeks after the challenge began, she developed shingles. “This is a sign from God that I am not to deal with this (excessive stress and anxiety due to not smoking),” and she recommenced smoking.

My mother’s tolerance for pain must have been high, because some years later she died only five days after the diagnosis of extensive lung cancer. How long the cancer was growing inside of her, we would never know.

I smoked occasionally throughout the years. I would give myself permission to smoke when we were on vacation without the children. My last great cigarette experience was in 2000 in Italy. I remember one moment of lived-out fantasy, of continental and cosmopolitan, as I relaxed in the piazza of a village, sipping grappa and inhaling an incredibly strong European cigarette.

I am very fortunate that I have not wanted to smoke in years. However, nostalgia overwhelms me occasionally as I stand next to someone smoking. If only . . . .

Check out a couple of websites that I found. The first is about the hard cost of cigarettes, and the second is more about the comprehensive cost. Smoking does not fit into being thrifty.

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