11.17.2005

Great American Smokeout

Today is a pretty significant day in the cancer fighting circles. Kudos to all of you taking part in the Great American Smokeout. It means the world to me when someone that I love wages such a huge battle as the one it takes to fight the addiction to all of the things stuffed into cigarettes. And I know that it is a battle. It is one that I understand with my head if not entirely with my body, although I get that a little, too.

I was one of the fortunate ones. The stupid social smoking that I did in college because I thought it made me look cool and mature and worldly and after my divorce because it helped me breathe, (does that make sense, it did to me at the time) didn't result in a serious addiction. But I know something of that addiction because of the overwhelming and powerful urge that still comes over me to light up at certain times of the year (always at it's coldest) and during certain activities (when I'm writing with a great cup of coffee on a cold day early in the morning and sometimes while driving late at night by myself).

I had my first cigarette when I was a grade school girl, though like others have claimed about other smoking experiences, I didn't inhale. I was uneducated in the ways of a smoker. I had found the offending cigarette, where I will never admit, and hid behind my house when home alone for five minutes crouched in a corner where none of the neighbors would be able to spy and report me later. For this was a neighborhood where parents watched out for each other's children. It was a pretty unexciting event, one that I forgot for quite some time afterward.

My next bout with the habit came when I was in Junior High. Of course back in those days kids could go buy them at the store 'for their parents' without question. We lived out in the country then. A girlfriend and I were having a sleepover and we walked into town and up on the hill to Tom Thumb where we knew we could buy a pack. It was a Friday night and we walked 'to the football game' but bypassed it and got a pack of cigarettes instead. We smoked several on the way home, turning green before we got there as we now knew about the whole inhalation thing. We probably walked back to her house instead of mine where there would be less attention paid to us when we got there. I don't remember much after the turning green part.

I smoked a few off and on in high school. My mom found a pack of them up in my hiding place at one point. There was a shouting match. There was another party in the family who got po'd at me for it and probably felt a little guilty as I was smoking the same brand as them. A copycat smoker? Yeah. I probably was. Hey, I wanted to be cool. Who was cooler than that?

I smoked again in college, where I could buy them from a vending machine, because when I sat in the common areas studying alone it made me feel less stupid about being there by myself. I had something to do with my hands and looked busy (and cool, let's face it! Can you hear the sarcasm?).

I got married and had a baby and then came the divorce when I spent some time unable to breathe. I had some friends who took me out dancing to get me to lighten up (notice that I did not say light up) and live again and I found out that if I took the really deep breath of a smoke, I could breathe again. (Are you laughing at with me?) It felt good.

Why didn't I get addicted? I guess I was blessed. Something/someone was watching out for me, I think.

I have heard people who quit over 40 years ago say that they still get the overwhelming desire to have a smoke every once in a while. That is one damn powerful addiction. Powerful yes, but not impossible. They did it. You can too.

My Uncle Bill the dearest man with one of the biggest hearts (this man had more spirit than the most religious person I have ever met - you have never met a more generous person anywhere) was a smoker. He was an OTR trucker who spent long hours on the road. He smoked to fill in the gaps. He smoked a lot. And it destroyed him. We lost him a few years ago. It took him from us long before any of us were ready to let him go. Just trying to write these few sentences has made me feel a depth of grief I had no idea was still inside of me. (And yes, the people here at the coffee shop are wondering just what is wrong with me.) I can't even re-read these sentences in editing without starting to weep all over again!

Please, please! if you have one person in your life that loves you, if you cannot think of a single good reason to quit smoking for yourself, then please quit for them. There are resources available to help you.



I apologize for this being a disjointed hodgepodge of a post. I didn't mean for that to happen. My thoughts were a bit scattered. There were many things that I wanted to say today. There are many places you can get the statistics, I know. But I'm going to lay them out for you again here. Because that's the kind of person I am... ;-) Make sure you memorize them for the quiz later, or to help me remember them for the quiz later. I've got that really crappy memory. Maybe it is from those cigarettes I smoked when I was younger and more foolish.

Secondhand Smoke & Lung Cancer: Get the Facts (from the American Cancer Society)

Did you know...
  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States for both men and women and is the most preventable form of cancer death in our society.
  • Eighty-seven percent of lung cancer deaths can be attributed to tobacco use.
  • Lung cancer estimates for 2005:
    o New cases - 173,770
    ~ Males: 93,110
    ~ Females: 80,660
    o Deaths - 160,440
    ~ Males: 91,930
    ~ Females: 68,510
  • Tobacco use accounts for at least 30 percent of all cancer deaths and 87 percent of lung cancer deaths.
  • In 2002, an estimated 45.8 million United States adults (22.5 percent of the population) were current smokers.

    The Facts About Secondhand Smoke
  • Secondhand smoke causes between 35,000 and 40,000 deaths from heart disease every year.
  • Three thousand otherwise healthy nonsmokers will die of lung cancer annually because of their exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Secondhand smoke has become an occupational hazard for many workers, including casino, restaurant, bar and hotel employees. Although over three fourths of white collar workers are covered by smoke-free policies, just 43 percent of the country's 6.6 million food preparation and service occupations workers benefit from this level of protection.
  • Fifteen million kids, or nearly 22 percent of all children and adolescents, were exposed to secondhand smoke in the home during 1996.
  • To protect those who choose not to smoke and to reduce the costs associated with treating tobacco-related disease, the American Cancer Society supports smoke-free air policies that restrict the places where people can light up.

  • Smoking remains the most preventable cause of death in the U.S., and the Society has resources available to help people quit. The American Cancer Society Quitline utilizes science-based resources that double a caller's chances of quitting for good, including trained tobacco cessation specialists available 24 hours a day. If you're serious about quitting or helping someone else quit, call 1.877.YES.QUIT (1.877.937.7848) and ask for help.

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