I'm Begging, Please Quit Smoking Cigarettes?
Now that I have your undivided attention . . .
let me just say this to you, the smoker. I understand. More than you think. It's rough. And getting rougher to be a smoker in today's 'health-conscious' society of 2011. I am not against you, but for you, my friend, for only one who has been where you are now, can truly understand.
I am a former smoker. No, I am not here to preach to you. Condemn you. Judge you. Or throw you, as our society today has become way too good at doing, to the masses of outcasts, social lepers that for some lofty reason, do not fit into the perfectly-molded and squeaky-clean image of the 2011 society. I am not your judge. I am not going to insult you and your sense of morality and say that you are less than person for smoking. I am not a vengeful man. So, may I just talk to you one-on-one for a moment?
I remember it like it was yesterday
the day I picked up my first cigarette. I was at the tender, uneducated age of six. My dad and my brother-in-law were both smokers, but let me quickly add, they were both great men. Solid citizens. Great neighbors. But loved to smoke cigarettes. That was their only vice. My dad or brother-in-law were not into alcohol, cheating on their wives, gambling or beating their children. Still, they loved to smoke cigarettes. I remember watching them take the cigarette out of the packs in the front pockets of their shirts, light the cigarette with a match, inhale the first puff or "draw," in smoke-talk and exhale the smoke with a certain allurement that I just had to see what it was like to smoke a cigarette. My trusting eyes burned from the smoke, but that didn't matter at the time. I wanted a cigarette. If it was good enough for my dad and brother-in-law, hey, it was great for me. These men even smoked in front of our preacher when he ate lunch with us. That sealed the deal. If the preacher didn't bark about smoking, then it was smooth sailing for me to take up this habit that made men look more manly than just sitting around and chewing their Wrigley's gum.
I found my system of smoking . . .
to be so easy. And comical. I would patiently wait until my dad threw down his Camel unfiltered cigarette (his favorite brand) and pick up the 'butt' (again, in smoke talk) or unsmoked portion of the cigarette and place it in my mouth just like a fully-grown man. I didn't inhale (sorry for the Bill Clinton pun) the smoke, but just puffed the cigarette butt to the delight of my dad and brother-in-law who laughed, slapped their legs and told my sister and mother to, "hurry up and see Kenny smoking like we are," and they would come to the living room to see me standing on the hearth of our fireplace with cigarette in my mouth and join in the gala celebration of my discovery of smoking cigarettes. Yes, I was on way way to an almost-lifetime relationship with cigarettes and the nicotine they possess.
Years passed . . .
and I was still much in love with smoking. But at the age of nine, maybe ten, my dad became concerned at my puffing away on unsmoked cigarette butts. My dad was the only smoker in our home, no, my mom smoked with dad in the mornings with their coffee. My brother-in-law and his wife, (my sister), had joined the local church and gave up this sinful habit. Good for them. I was too young to understand the connection of joining a church then quitting smoking. My dad must have not understood, for he kept on puffing those unfiltered Camels. I guess, looking back on these days of discovery and growth, it would be hard, maybe tough, to lecture a man like my dad who was the sole breadwinner of our family who worked from sun up until sundown to put food on our table, about the evils of smoking. And besides in 1965, the Surgeon General of the United States, leading doctors and health officials, were not against smoking. Not at all. Fact was, the television, radio, newspaper and magazines were full of pro-smoking ads--telling men and women that smoking was relaxing, tasty and socially-tasteful. I remember those colorful ads that had men dressed in fine suits and ladies in pretty evening dresses all holding a smoldering Chesterfield, Winston, or KOOL cigarette in their soft hands because men in these cigarette ad campaigns did not plow fields, work in factories, like my dad, but these men all had office jobs while their pretty wives stayed at home with their perfect kids. I am just telling it like it is.
Then my teenage years rolled in . . .
and I was still smoking, not inhaling, but I was what was known as a "secret smoker," "closet smoker," "a sneak-around smoker," all ugly names for any teenager, girl or boy, but I endured and was never caught by my dad who did lay down the law to me to "not take up (his) nasty habit" of smoking cigarettes for as one of his noble lectures was, "he wanted me to play football for my high school," and be a sports star. A gridiron warrior who didn't smoke. What a dream. I almost bought-into this fantasy, but my now-late cousin Donnie Avery, also a "closet smoker," kept talking me into being loyal to the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company and their fine cigarette brands that he had memorized. Donnie was a smart cousin. He would either 'sneak' cigarettes from his brother, Michael, who was an Air Force man, and as you know, back in these days, all servicemen smoke cigarettes, or simply ask Michael to give him a few cigarettes to smoke when their parents were not home. Michael pretty much didn't care either way if Donnie smoked. And that was great when I would stay at Donnie's house on a Friday night when our high school football team, the Hamilton High School Aggies, were playing home. Donnie lived within walking distance to Sargent Stadium where Aggie games were played and we would take our sweet time walking to the game--smoking our cigarettes like older guys and men. We were careful to not let anyone who knew our parents see us with these 'devil sticks' in our fingers. We were two crafty newbie smokers. And loved it.
Just what is to 'love' about smoking cigarettes . . .?
I can answer that. But you have to understand my answer from that period of my teenage life. I, with Donnie, and hundreds more of teenage guys just like us loved smoking because . . .
- It made us look 'cool,' 'hip,' 'in' with the social climbers of our school.
- Smoking gave us confidence to do what we wanted to do. Actually the correct term is 'false confidence' for smoking cigarettes has nothing to do with having confidence.
- Smoking, we thought, looked attractive to the 'easy' girls we wanted to attract. Sorry, ladies, but I am only telling the truth as it was to me at this stage of my life.
- We loved the taste of cigarettes after we ate a meal. Or drank some coffee.
- We thought smoking made us look like grown men.
- We thought that if we smoked, the 'bad guys' in school would respect us. They respected us alright. They extorted cigarettes from us at recess.
- Smoking fed our youthful rebellious spirit we had against 'the man,' and 'the system.'
- Smoking was 'the thing' to do if you wanted to be accepted in the cliques in high school. We didn't want to be called weaklings or panty waists.
These are only the basic reasons why I smoked cigarettes as a teenager. A habit? Are you kidding me? I can quit anytime I want, I would argue with people who didn't smoke in my classes. People actually cared for me and my lungs and I didn't take time to realize what cigarettes were doing to my life. And health. Just 'burn the cigarette (and candle) at both ends," and live it up. That was my motto after I graduated high school in 1972 and continued to smoke cigarettes now in front of my parents because my dad, still a smoker himself, said to me one day. "if you're going to smoke. Smoke in front of me. I have no use for a 'sneak,' okay?" And with that, I went wide-open smoking with my dad. What a great feeling. Doing something you thought was wrong and now do it with your dad's permission. What a lucky guy I thought I was. I was lucky alright. More like living in a dream world of pro-smoking propaganda that actually made young people want to smoke. And I was all-in as I took some money from my lawn-mowing job and gave it to my dad who bought my cigarettes for me. I just didn't have the guts to walk up to the clerk in the grocery store, who just happened to go to church with me, and plop down a pack of Winstons (in the red pack) and say, "Yep. I smoke. I love it." I wasn't that much of a Jame Dean type of teenager.
Solid Reasons TO NOT Smoke Cigarettes . . .
1. Cigarettes contain over 300 various poisons in the tobacco. Imagine for a moment what this does to your lungs, circulatory system and arteries.
2. Cigarettes ARE LINKED TO LUNG CANCER. Consider how many people overall, die from smoking cigarettes in the United States in one year. More probably than those who abuse illegal drugs and alcohol.
3. Cigarette-smoking harms your lung's ability to produce needed-oxygen for your body.
4. Cigarette-smoking can CAUSE strokes, high blood pressure, and other health issues.
5. Cigarettes produce a DEADLY SECOND-HAND SMOKE which has been proven DANGEROUS to non-smokers around those who smoke.
6. Some insurance companies in some states charge higher rates for smokers than non-smokers.
7. The deadly nicotine in cigarettes, can literally marinate your lungs with tar, embedded dangerous poisons and cause heart-failure.
8. Cigarette-smoking CUTS DOWN on your stamina making it difficult to walk long distances.
9. Cigarette-smoking is growing more and more illegal in most restaurants, public and government buildings and other properties.
10. Cigarette-smoking is more EXPENSIVE that you think. Some places such as New York City, charge as high as $5.50 PER PACK of cigarettes.
I ask you honestly, as a friend, and someone who literally cares about you as a human being, "is it really that important to you to smoke cigarettes?"