Athens Review, Athens, Texas

March 29, 2014

A habit in a society and in a home that should stop

The Athens Review

Athens — It was Tuesday that I was walking back to my car on the Walmart parking lot, when a business acquaintance of mine who comes to the Review office sometimes, stopped her car in front of me to say hello.

I noticed her doing something that happens at almost any moment she is around, without the office surroundings.  She had a cigarette in her hand.

She has told me she would like to quit.  I told her that would be a good idea, but not an easy one to fulfill.

I have first-hand knowledge of that.  I began smoking when I was 18, and finally quit at age 45.

That was too long.  For all those years there was a  residual effect of smoking two packs of Marlboro Reds per day, or any other cigarette I could get my hands on, if I was out of Marlboros.

I coughed often, and had been to the doctor several times with various ailments related to my lungs and throat that have since been cured by nature and by the grace of God.

How did this happen?  Let’s look first to what brought me to this habit. 

My parents both smoked.  In our house in Bellmead, near Waco, when I was a child, I could be in a room with the Venetian blinds shut, with a slither of sunlight coming through.  At the age of about 6, I could remember watching the smoke in that house move between me and the light.  It was like a horror movie.  But, on the other hand, I was thoroughly fascinated.  It was, in a way, very beautiful.

My mother and father, and their siblings, who were young adults during World War II, remembered viewing the soldiers come back to the U.S. with cigarettes in-hand.

The generation believed that if their country’s heroes do this, it must be just fine.

That was before scientific reports coming out in the early 1960s indicated the dangers of this habit.

But, the country didn’t really believe this.  In part, it was because smoking had been something Americans, and others across the world, had enjoyed perhaps from the beginning of time.

Also, they believed that a habit that was good enough for heroes, was good enough for society.

But, then, as the news began telling people about smokers that were in great danger, eyes began to open.

According to the Wikipedia report from the web, the following is told:  

“Tobacco is the single greatest cause of preventable death globally. Tobacco use leads most commonly to diseases affecting the heart, liver and lungs, with smoking being a major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (including emphysema and chronic bronchitis), and cancer (particularly lung cancer, cancers of the larynx and mouth, and pancreatic cancer).”

I can give my personal feelings about the happenings in my life.  My dad, a heavy smoker, didn’t die in that way. He just was in rotten health for the last 30 years of his life. However, my mother did die from emphysema. I know many people from that time period that had terrible trouble just breathing,  and within a small number of years, died.

Looking back on it, it seemed so unnecessary.  But, it was certainly their business.

I remember that when I was a child, stores of all kinds and restaurants, and just about any other place you could go in public, was open for smokers to do their thing while there.

When I was in college in the late 1960s, I remember the rule was that I could smoke in class, or any other part of the campus, inside or out, as long as I brought a little container to flip ashes in.

Things have really changed.

So, here’s the punchline...Why did I quit?

It wasn’t just the problem with health.  I had some minor problems.  And, I put it out of my mind that these problems would probably escalate into something deadly in a few years.

True, I really did enjoy smoking, with the feeling of smoke moving through me (even if I did sometimes cough while doing it).

But, I enjoyed something else a little more, and that’s why I quit.

I got married to my wonderful wife, Jean, in 1988, when I was 39. I kept smoking, and she put up with it for quite a while, and probably would have until my death.

There was also the issue of second-hand smoke.  Medical professionals know that anyone that is exposed to smoke from another person’s cigarette for an extended period of time can suffer the same consequences, as if they too, had smoked.

I didn’t like being responsible for my wife’s illnesses (or worse)  because of my habits.

Also, after a while, my wife asked me to go outside and smoke when the urge hit me.  That was in the rain, sleet, snow or the heat of summer.

I certainly understood that.  She didn’t smoke, and didn’t really care for the aroma.  I don’t particularly like it myself anymore.

In a sense, my love for her and her persuasiveness about my health and hers, actually and truthfully saved my life.

I did quit by just putting them in the trash before lighting them up.  It was incredibly difficult, but the importance was staring me in the face.  Yes, I was sucking on straws, just to be able to sense that I could be smoking without the danger.

I can only say to those of you that do still smoke, that you were put on this earth for a reason, and it’s not just up to you to die by your own habit.

Think hard about it. Give it some serious thought.  Have a talk with God about it.

You have the reason.  Now, just find a way.

Jeff Riggs is Associate Editor of the Athens Daily Review.