Today, January 14, 2019, is the 36th anniversary of my birth…or should I say, rebirth.  Truth be told, in 1983 it was the date that I stopped smoking cigarettes, forever. Had I not, I would have been long dead by now, and a horrible death at that.

     A year or so prior to then, a doctor-friend shared a diagnosis with me that I had the early stages of emphysema which, in today’s jargon, we call COPD.  I’ll not forget his words. “Marshall, I would rather treat an advanced case of cancer anytime, than a patient dying of emphysema. There is very little I can do to alleviate the suffering.”

     This would be no easy task for a four-pack a day addict like me. Like many folks of the early era, I started in 1955 at age 16 mainly to fit in with friends. It was cool. It was in. Movie stars on and off screen, all smoked. So did famous recording artists. Physicians could be seen on billboard ads recommending Camels or Lucky Strikes. In the 1950s and 60s you were not cool if you didn’t smoke.

     But time marched on. Literature was coming out just how dangerous cigarettes are. I was coughing my guts out every morning, before lighting my first of the day. The addiction was so powerful, I smoked everywhere, in movie theaters, in my officers, elevators, the back of airplanes. I even smoked in the shower, having a Pall Mall burning on the edge of a toilet tank. I, alone, set the stink-standards for others to tolerate inside offices and cars.

     But I needed to quit. I figured I’d use some methods and devices that supposedly helped others. I tried One-Step-At-A-Time filters, four weeks later I was still at four packs a day. I tried acupuncture, (in the ears) no success there. I went to a hypnotist. I think it was ME that put HIM to sleep. Finally, the realization occurred to me that I was a hopeless addict, and the only thing that could help me stop smoking was — me. Quitting cigarettes was not up to the devices or methods, it was up to me. I had to do it on my own. No weaning. No clinging. Cold turkey was the only method that could work.

     I had one idea that might help. I asked my doctor if he had a drug that could knock me out for a full day and a half. He administered the medicine on a Friday afternoon, (after work), and I didn’t wake up until Sunday morning. By that time, I had a head start. I woke up as a non-smoker on my second day. Meanwhile, I had warned my co-workers, friends and family that I would likely be on edge for a few days or more, and to please understand.  

     Remaining a non-smoker was the next step. Some folks suggested I get active with exercise. I hate work-out gyms, so I tried the running therapy. My lungs were so bad I couldn’t jog more than 50 yards without coughing my guts out. But I tried again, and gradually went to 100 yards.  Then 200 yards and eventually, a half mile.  I grew to love the running experience. I started entering 5K and 10K runs, not to win, but to endure. Two years later, I completed the Orange Bowl Marathon, 26.2 miles.

     To cigarette addicts who are hoping to quit the habit, here’s my hindsight advice.

  1. Don’t “Try” to quit smoking. You either quit, or you don’t. Trying is not quitting.
  2. Don’t depend on devices or methods to do it for you.
  3. Forget about vaping and pot smoking, you are still smoking and self-damaging.
  4. Learn about COPD and the horrors such patients experience
  5. View color pictures of autopsies comparing pink lungs to smoker’s lungs.
  6. Realize the long range suffering you face if you continue smoking.
  7. Just do it.  Believe me, you’ll live through it.


  1. Old Jack Milavic January 14, 2019 at 3:23 pm #

    I am very impressed. How about coffee this Friday morning or Monday? Ill drive and treat.

  2. Stu Milisci(author of nothing important) January 14, 2019 at 3:30 pm #

    Good advice . Quit onJune 16th ,2018 after my 2d heart attack at age74.
    Guess I’m just a slow learner.

  3. Hope January 14, 2019 at 3:58 pm #

    Thanks, Marshall – I just printed this for my son. Sure hope it works for him. I am suffering with COPD now. I never smoked myself, but lived with chain smokers all my life; parents, husband, and now son. God bless you!

  4. Christopher January 14, 2019 at 4:02 pm #

    Good for you. My mom quit after a massive stroke, and thankfully lived 20 more years, most of it good. Not everyone has that chance. Another aunt (smoker) had a stroke and was never close to normal after that and yet another died from lung/brain cancer.
    Congrats on a great success story.

  5. Rico January 14, 2019 at 4:48 pm #

    Good story Marshall. Allow me to share my story. My cigarette story starts in the marines when they were free, and it was cool to smoke, everyone who was cool smoked! Some 25 years later. while stationed at Partick AFB, in the mid ’70s, I and two others made a bet that each time caught smoking for the next year, it would cost one hundred dollars. Being a frugal man and not having much disposal cash, I quit and never smoked again. I just ran into one of the three at the movies in Melbourne last year. We looked at each other with the same look, I know you, as more than 40 years had gone by. After the proper re-introductions it was Sam, one of the three in the bet. He and I shared the good news, neither of us ever smoked again. Now I find the smell of smoke offensive, and avoid being around smokers. Smoking is not cool any longer.

  6. Anonymous January 14, 2019 at 4:56 pm #


    your advice is like Yoda’s to Luke Skywalker, who said he would “try” to use the Force: “‘Try’ not! DO, or do not!


  7. Helen Bennett January 14, 2019 at 5:22 pm #

    My husband smoked as you did, Marshall, and promised to quit when we got married. It took him 17 years, but our kids shamed him into it. He finally quit by changing brands. When he could not longer smoke Larks, smoking lost its appeal and he just stopped!

  8. Cliff January 14, 2019 at 6:05 pm #

    Congratulations! Feb 2 will be 40 years for me. So glad I stopped.

  9. Charlie Greene January 14, 2019 at 7:13 pm #

    I tried one cigarette at the urging of my peers when I was 14 yrs. old.
    After coughing and almost choking I stepped on it and that was the end of my smoking. I grew up in a house of a chain smoking father breathing 2nd hand smoke every day until I moved out at age 21.
    Luckily I received no medical problems from that. My father finally quit about age 65 and lived to age 83. I am now going on 81 and in excellent health.

  10. FIGARO January 15, 2019 at 11:19 am #

    JULY, 1976. I was single, between opera gigs. I holed up in my apt. for four days, drinking tea, eating light and watching TV. Not answering my phone or talking to anyone. Tough, but it worked.

  11. JR Hansen January 15, 2019 at 7:46 pm #

    Marshall you have come a long way from chain smoking and lightingone from another in your crime scene office at Metro Dade to a marathon good job

  12. clearstory January 16, 2019 at 12:59 pm #

    The new disguisting habit that people will regret in time is getting a TATOO. Having none is cool.

    Why put something on your boby you would not hang on your wall ?

  13. Ronald Fischer January 21, 2019 at 11:49 pm #

    One of your best messages, Marshall. I quit after I returned from Vietnam (Army – 1966-1967). You are absolutely correct – you don’t quit until YOU quit and that’s exactly how I quit too.

  14. Chuck Wilder February 11, 2019 at 9:40 pm #

    I stared smoking while in the Navy, I never got the hang of it in High School; But on ship in the Navy we got breaks, coffee or smokes, I wasn’t a coffee fan so to get those time outs,I chose smoking. After the navy I was a DJ (A real one on the radio) and I had a cig going thru out my 3 or 4 hour show.. This was all going on in the late 60’s, 70’s and in the Mid 80’s my daughter came up one day and said look “I have a free admission for two to get hypnotized to stop smoking” Yeah sure , a buddy and I went.
    There were about 200 hundred people in the auditorium (200) . It worked and I was sure it wouldn’t. The good news now is when I go to the serious Doctor call , I don’t expect to hear COPD.. Excellent article Marshall…as usual .