[ NOte from NOel : I thought of writing this e-mail since November, my third anniversary of tobacco cessation, informally known all over the planet as quitting smoking, but other things got in the way, early Christmas and a wedding being just two of them. I almost put it off permanently, but I realized that if I can cause just ONE kabatch/schoolmate/ kabayan/brod/officemate to quit after reading this crazy blog, I consider it a raging success. Which is why you’re reading this now. Happy birthday to Carolyn Co – Huang and Desu Enriquez, congrats to all the organizers (special mention to SJCSAA Pres Johann Tan and finishers of the SJCS Fun Run, and kudos to Kuya Chat Uy for the post run venue ! Galing-galing ! ]
Dear kabatch, schoolmates, brods, kabayan, officemates and friends :
KNOCK on wood and not tempting Fate, but per se or on the rebound I’ve been lucky most of my life. I’ve matriculated in good schools, and although I never had the smarts or discipline to pursue careers made possible by the first-rate education, I’ve been able to get respectable jobs. I fell in love, fell out of love, and ended up lucky in love again. I’ve had three unqualifiedly great kids, been an absentee dad different times in their lives, and (hopefully) still enjoy a quality relationship with all of them. Now, wouldn’t you call that lucky?
Make no mistake though, I’m not pushing the odds. I will do my best not to use lots of statistics about smoking here, you’ve probably heard enough in one form of advocacy or another, across all forms of media. But even the most clueless are aware that deaths from smoking are the single biggest preventable cause of death on Earth, and while an exact figure is nearly impossible to obtain, it’s a safe bet to presume that around fifteen million (15,000,000) people die a painful, horrible and extremely uncomfortable death every year (adverbs added largely for dramatic effect, but you get the idea).
Like many of us, I started smoking when I was very young, right out of high school, trying to emulate elder male relatives. Ironically, at around the time I picked up the habit, my father was a vocal reformed former smoker, who took time to lecture anyone around him (especially his sons) on the evil and wastage generated by smoking.
Right away, this gives you a personal perspective on the World Wide Weed : first, that it targets the young, pre-adult demographic, and second, that no amount of deterrence agitated by family, education or society, will stand up to the slick and massive advertising and counter-culture (actually establishment culture in many respects) appeal propped up by the big business-mass media bandwagon.
From there, all those who stand to benefit the most from our tobacco addiction need to do is let (human) nature take its course : we find ways to rationalize ignoring the reality of our addiction : that it is slowly killing us, draining precious resources for retirement, and depriving us the opportunities for comfort and enrichment, whether now or in the future.
I hope I don’t sound like a puritanical do-gooder, as some of you who know me are aware that for large chunks of my life I’ve been a bohemian free spirit given to tolerance and a c’est la vie attitude. But I’ve seen quite a few people, otherwise intelligent and common sensical, who’ve persisted in continuing a nasty habit when all evidence suggested that it would be the death of them (literally) to feed their stubbornness.
I’ve witnessed a person literally gasping for air every labored breath, the last few days of his life, brought about almost surely by emphysema, or the gradual death of lung cells. If the sight was traumatic to me, his bedside visitor, you can imagine how it was for him.
I can recount an experience of watching a person lunching on nothing else but two cigarets, unable to afford anything else. Neither his bronchitis or his asthma mattered, as he was unable to ingest actual food or address his addiction.
Worst of all, as mentioned above, are the sometimes tragicomic rationalizations created by smokers to justify nursing their habit. It’s like there’s a carefully structured world of rules and beliefs, only three of which are set forth below :
“I can always quit anytime I want.” Pardon me, but if you could, why haven’t you actually stopped, and when are you stopping? The peripheral oddity of this philosophy is that everything else about the evils of smoking, the proponent of I can quite anytime accepts and understands, which is why he sees the wisdom of tobacco cessation, just that he can’t do it now, for one reason or another. Which is fine for the cancer stick companies. You are welcome to quit the lovely habit, just not today.
“Smoking gives me _____ (fill in the blank with your personalized benefit that can’t be substituted by anything else).” Whether as an post-dinner treat, an after-sex tradition, an aid to thinking creativity, something or other, there are a thousand and one reasons smokers can’t give up their beloved Marlboro reds, Philip M menthols or Winston Lights. The fallacy of these twisted reasonings comes to light when one realizes that you can’t enjoy much of Life, these smokers’ benefits included, when you lose precious health, the one thing you need to continue savoring Life’s hard-earned pleasures. I could go on and on debunking the best-laid plans of mice and smokers, but I’ll just stop here. What could be more important than Quality of Life, or for that matter, Life itself? ‘Nuff said.
“Can’t you understand it’s an addiction? I hate smoking, but I’m helpless.” Let’s parse this into three, OK? First, I do understand that it’s an addiction, but it’s not impossible to cure. Indeed, out of 100 smokers who try to quit without pharmaceutical or medical help, only seven eventually kick the habit. This is an incredible stat, and shows you why of all legal addictions, tobacco is the most vicious. But it’s doable, stopping I mean.
Second, what do you mean you hate smoking, when it’s the first thing you reach for and last thing you insist on doing in a day, every day? It’s hard to admit, but even three years removed from smoking, I still acknowledge certain pleasures associated with puffing : the near-instant buzz that hits you straight in the brain ( that’s magnified on an empty stomach, NOT advisable ), the clarity of thought, and the diminished appetite if you’re a dieter.
So three, whether or not you’re helpless is subject to discussion. Ultimately though, the cardiovascular dangers, the diminished lung capacity, the multitude of poisons that create a favorable environment for cancers, and the lifetime of suffering all but shut down the debate : only the most naive, or irresponsible, would continue smoking, in the face of all the evidence.
“I’m only a moderate smoker.” I used to think the same way, but there is simply no justification for opening yourself to the likelihood of moving up from one to two cancer sticks a day, to half a pack, to one-plus packs, to ultimately two-packs a day, which is like Russian Roulette with five bullets in a six-round barrel. The same is true for all other addictions, where it takes more and more hits to sustain the same amount of pleasure, whether it’s alcohol, sex or Two-and-A-Half Men / Big Bang Theory episodes.
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I initially wanted to end this with trying to appease the PC (politically correct) crowd ; the choice, tolerance and democratic society debaters. Kudos to them. Instead I think of the things the smoker will probably be hardput to experience later in life : Flying a kite on a meadow with your grandson (your diminished lung capacity will make this all but impossible); experiencing the full flavors of your granddaughter’s/ daughter’s/daughter-in-law’s freshly baked muffins (taste is one of the first things to go with heavy smokers), or enjoying a vigorous post-retirement activity like regular walking, hiking or swimming (a no-brainer, but weakened heart lungs and atrophied muscles make these activities unlikely). I understand that beer, pulutan and great conversation are simply unthinkable without ciggies, but you might want to reconsider.
[ An additional thought : Although roughly a quarter of the male population smoke (not sure on the female side, it must be similar), smoking is an intensely personal activity. All the quit programs will help, but it starts from you. ]
It’s very hard to quit my friend, but you have to at least try.
Thanks for reading !
- Quit-Smoking Aids: What Works? (webmd.com)
- Australian smoking rates are down to an all time low. So, who is still lighting up? (theage.com.au)
- New ads link cough to cancer (theage.com.au)
- Chew On This: New Product uses Licorice Roots, Tobacco Tales, and Juice Cleansing to Help Smokers ‘Give It Up’ in 2011 (prweb.com)
- Avoid Gaining Weight When You Stop Smoking (webmd.com)
- 10 Reasons to Quit Smoking: Cost, Smell, Wrinkles, and More (webmd.com)
- ‘Every smoke brings cancer closer’ (heraldsun.com.au)
- Pay B.C. smokers to kick habit, groups say (cbc.ca)
- Every smoke brings cancer closer: campaign (news.smh.com.au)
- Every smoke brings cancer closer: campaign (news.theage.com.au)