This is about smoking cigarettes. Most of my readers have given up the habit long ago. But, you might want to pass this down to a few of the grandkids, especially those entering their teens.

I know a guy who smoked four packs a day. He was a hard-core nicotine addict.

He started…much the same way most teens start, because he wanted to be “the same,” included, part of the group, no different. He wanted “acceptance.” Smoking cigarettes was part of the every day culture. It was cool!

Of course, in the 1950’s, smoking was the “in” thing for society in general. We cannot see an old Classic Movie starring Humphrey Bogart or Bette Davis without noticing that every character in the scene is puffing away on the weed. Holding a Chesterfield between the fingers was part of the attire. Until the 1980s, smoking was allowed almost everywhere, including office buildings and movie theaters. No more.

Like most kids who continue the habit into adulthood, he became addicted to nicotine. After all, it’s as much a drug, as is heroin and cocaine, only nicotine is sold legally and taxed by the government. The addiction became so powerful, that the mere thought of quitting gave him pains in the jaw. When he went without a smoke for more than a couple hours, he felt disoriented, achy, needy. He had to have a cigarette, and when he finally did, he felt that rush of light-headedness. Sooo good.

Eventually he entered into a fast-paced job with lots of pressure. Pall Malls burned to the fingers before he’d light another, and another. Two packs a day, then three, then four. He gave up good relationships if smoking offended the opposite sex. By the time he reached his thirties, he woke up hacking in the mornings. His lungs pained him, but he still managed to smoke. He smoked in the shower, leaving a butt burning on the toilet tank for a quick “hit” between the wash and the shampoo.

He became a slave to cigarettes. They were part of his persona. He felt undressed if they weren’t in his pockets. He’d panic if he ran out of matches. Pall Malls were a significant part of his budget. They came first, before food. Cigarettes owned him.

He was 39 when the doctor told him he had early stages of emphysema. “I’d rather treat a cancer patient any day, than an emphysema patient,” he said. “If you don’t quit, you’ll die a very slow and painful death.”

So, he went about trying to quit. It was almost impossible. He tried special filters, but they didn’t work. He tried acupuncture, but it didn’t work. He tried hypnotism, and it didn’t work. When he did quit for a few days, he’d sneak puffs off cigarette butts from abandoned ash trays.

Finally, at the age of 43, he had an epiphany. The filters, acupuncture and hypnotism didn’t help, because he had not really committed himself to quit. He was relying on the devices to do it for him. There was no other way, than to do it on his own. So, he made a hard-fast commitment: “As of today, I am a non-smoker.”

There is no such thing as “trying.” The term “trying” is a pacifier, to shut people up. You either do it, or you do not.

He went to a doctor and asked for a medicine to knock him out over the week-end, as a head start. That was 26 years ago. To this day, he considers himself an addict in recovery. If he risked one puff, he’d be just like a recovering alcoholic having one drink.

Kids think they are too young to worry. They are invulnerable. Becoming 40 or 50 is too far off to be concerned. But, the addiction begins early. And it stays, and it dominates, and it controls, and it makes slaves out of its users.

Since those days, the four pack-a-day smoker has seen many of his friends go by the wayside the hard way, all smokers who started when they were invulnerable. It’s not the deaths that are so troubling, it’s the suffering along the way to the grave. Emphysema victims spend months and years hunched over gasping for a breath, many with oxygen strapped to their backs. One Miami cop who suffered with this horrible disease stuck a gun in his mouth to end it all. Another suffered from painful lung cancer for five years, and misery from cancer treatments, before he finally succumbed. Then, there’s the ones with heart disease, another fallout from the addiction to nicotine.

No sense boring you with statistics, you’ve heard it all. Suffice to say, the chances of suffering with a horrible smoking-related disease later in life is twenty times greater if someone is a smoker of cigarettes. All it takes, is being an addict. Few can escape it. Thus, the mere lighting up is tantamount to the long road toward a painful suicide.

With all that we know in the 21st century about disease and smoking, and the utter gamble kids are making by lighting up that first cigarette, one can only conclude that “acceptance” among peers is a more desired choice than certain suffering. Not only that, it’s plain stupid

Oh yeah…that guy who quit 26 years ago, he had a hard time with his lost habit, nervousness, nothing to do with his hands, and lips, and those missing packs from his pocket made him feel naked.

Someone said, “exercise.” So, he tried jogging. He couldn’t jog the length of a football field to start, without keeling over, but he kept trying. A couple weeks went by, and he jogged around the block before flaking out. A month later, he jogged one mile. Amazingly, three months went by and he ran 5 miles. Three years later, he finished a 26 mile marathon.

What a high!

There’s no such thing as “I can’t.” You just have to want to, bad enough.

I had a recent op-ed published in Florida Today, related to the tax increases on cigarettes. If interested, click on this link:

Give kids the truth |