Archive for the ‘Tobacco smoke’ Tag

What Smoking Has Done To Me

Dad 47 or 48


and more importantly




In a nutshell:

It has probably taken some years off my life.

It has caused the deaths of people I love – far too early.

It has caused me to be unfairly judgmental of others who smoke and to make assumptions about them which are not necessarily true.

It has caused me worry for my children, one who has smoked for several years and two others who are experimenting.

Its consequences are the source of certain real experiences I’ve had which were all-consuming and nightmarish.

It has brought about anger within me – something I must work against because of its adverse effect upon me and others around me.

So much for that!  That was quick and to the point.  I suppose this would be a good time to stop typing but I’d rather try to persuade you to stop smoking .  Please read on.  In spite of the title, if you are a smoker – this is more about you than it is about me.


I have never smoked beyond early experiments which were brief.  By brief, I mean, no more than a few cigarettes, no cigars, and one attempt at a pipe ending with nausea.  My mother, father, and step-father smoked; it killed all three of them.  My first wife (15 years) smoked and continues.  I have been around a lot of tobacco smoke.  I most certainly have been harmed.  The extent of the physical harm is unknown and the emotional harm and the hurt is hard to describe.  The hurt does not go away.  I know about addiction; I am qualified to write about it.  One day I may tell my story.  But today I’m more interested in trying to help you.


Are you a person who would like to quit smoking?

Are you turning over a new leaf and trying to live as healthy a life as possible?

Did you know that early-age smoking causes damage that might not manifest itself as lung disease until 30 or more years later and that the earlier you start, the greater the probability for lung disease?

Are you fed up with the ridiculous prices you are paying for a pack of cigarettes?

Do you want to reduce the probability of your dying of a smoking-related illness?

Are you sick and tired of having your body, your hair, and your clothing smelling like a billy-goat that has been continuously pissed upon by his other billy-goat pals?

Are you willing to admit that you are addicted or on the verge of addiction?

Are you willing to ask for help?

What were the circumstances that prompted you to begin smoking?  In retrospect, does it seem to have been in your best interest?

Are you so very selfish and self-centered that you can’t imagine quitting – ever – or is it just simply not convenient for you to quit at this time, Scarlet?

Do you have a relative who smokes every day of his/her adult life and has lived over 90 years?  If so, do you regard that as an indication that you are invincible to the dangers of smoking and therefore have some special immunity to its harmful effects?  If so, might you have that disease that is epidemic today, terminal uniqueness?

Are you one of those persons who claims, “If the good Lord had not intended us to smoke, he would not have created tobacco?”  If so, I contend that he also created the caladium (e.g. elephant ear plant); do you smoke it?  Must a plant have some designated utilitarian use because God created it?

Have you considered the effects of your second-hand smoke upon others?  Do you care?

Have you tried to stop?  If so, how many times?

How well do you handle pain?  Can you envision experiencing excruciating pain resulting from something that can’t be cured and is killing you?

Aside from the effect of your smoke upon others, are you one of those who says, “It’s my body and the only one I’m hurting is myself”?  If so, had you ever considered the agonizing stress and pain a loved one might go through as they watch you die of cancer or emphysema related to your smoking?  Do you know that such stress and emotional pain can cause one to become physically ill?  How far would you go to cut down on the chances of that happening?  In any event, would you like to reduce the chances that your loved ones will go through hell watching you waste away due to a smoking-related sickness?

Do you know that addictions can be overcome  with willingness, diligence and determination and that you can go for the rest of your life without ever smoking again?  Did you know that you can also enjoy life without smoking?  I know people who have quit “cold-turkey” without help from other people but it was extremely difficult.  Do you have the guts to suffer the discomfort and quit entirely in that way – beginning right now?  Are you willing to put yourself through that extremely rough period for the sake of yourself and others?


Instead, I recommend that you involve yourself with other people who have quit or who are attempting to quit.  I believe that it is easier that way because we are social animals and also because it is extremely beneficial to realize that you are not alone.  I advocate 12-Step programs because I have seen them work.  Though on-line meetings and chats can be helpful, I highly recommend attendance at meetings where you are actually with other people who have quit or are trying to quit.  In many parts of the country, meetings of that sort occur on a regular schedule.

Here are two links that can help you to get started:


If smoking snuffs out your life – you will not be the only one who suffers.  If you care about your loved ones and the quality of the memories they have of you after you die, please do whatever is necessary to stop smoking altogether.  I have heard that the addiction to smoking is as strong as or perhaps even stronger than addictions to cocaine.  So what?  Stop anyway.  If you believe in God or some form of Higher Power you have a wonderful tool to use right there.  If you don’t, you can designate anything you want to be your Higher Power – like the “whole group” of members who attend meetings devoted to the cessation of smoking if you are so lucky as to have some near you.  Ask for help.  Try Smokers and/or Nicotine Anonymous using the 12 steps derived from Alcoholics Anonymous.  Also, speak to your doctor; he/she may have some suggestions.  Make the decision to prevent your loved ones from torment similar to what I have experienced.

Think about what you are doing – think about the quality of your life.  It’s my guess that you have no idea how much better you will feel once you break the habit.

I will never be the same as the result of the smoking-related deaths of many people I have known and loved.  Five of them are listed below; I am not going to describe the horror but may do so at a later time as a follow-up to this posting.  First I will have to decide whether or not such descriptions might be helpful to one who might read them:

1. On March 2, 1965 a man I knew lovingly as “Daddy-Gene” died of lung cancer at his home in Ft. Lauderdale.  He was my stepfather of 12 years.  He was in his bed and I was seated on the bed next to him.  My first wife and my mother were standing together at the foot of the bed.

2. On February 27, 1987 my former boss and best friend, Loren, died of lung cancer at South Miami, Hospital.  I was standing in the hallway after having left him in his room with his wife in order that they could have total privacy during his final moments.

3. On March 2, 1991 my biological father died of esophageal cancer in a nursing home in Southern California.  He was in his bed and I was seated on the bed next to him.  No one else was there.

4. On January 1, 1997 my Mother’s mother died of pneumonia at Ball Hospital in Muncie, Indiana.  She was in her bed and I was seated on the bed next to her.  No one else was there.

5. On June 21, 2004 my Mother died of emphysema in a nursing home in Homestead, Florida.  She gave birth to me when she was only 16 years old.  She was behind a modesty curtain being bathed in her bed by a Hospice nurse while I sat in her room near the doorway.

6. My wife’s aunt is in the advanced stage of emphysema.  She has never been married.  She has no children to help care for her.  She is now fighting her third bout in two years with pneumonia.  She weighs 83 pounds.  She hasn’t the energy to get from her bed to the bathroom without assistance.  She has no appetite.  After speaking a sentence or two she struggles for air.  She is on oxygen 100% of the time.  UPDATE: THIS LOVELY LADY BROKE HER HIP ON DECEMBER 8, 2010 AND DIED APRIL 10, 2011.  BECAUSE OF HER EMPHYSEMA, SHE DID NOT HAVE THE STRENGTH TO ENGAGE SATISFACTORILY IN THE PHYSICAL THERAPY NECESSARY TO GET HER BACK ON HER FEET.  SHE WEIGHED LESS THAN 70 POUNDS WHEN SHE DIED.  SHE DID NOT WANT TO DEPART.  HAD SHE NOT SMOKED SHE MIGHT HAVE BEEN AROUND ANOTHER 10 YEARS, AT LEAST.

The six descriptions you have just read are dispassionate.  I left out what should be the obvious fact – I loved the five who are gone and I love the one who remains.  I also left out the hurt, the stress, and the horror.  Two of the deaths were “peaceful,” two were mildly disturbing, and one was an absolute nightmare bordering on chaotic.  All six episodes have left lasting impressions on me.

1. My stepfather was a heavy smoker.  He quit only when he no longer had the strength to smoke.  He suffered a back injury from a WWII plane crash in Morocco which diverted the attention of his chiropractor from the real cause of the pain – his cancer.  It might have been caught sooner had he not depended entirely upon the chiropractor’s diagnosis.  I believe that there are now, and have been terrific chiropractors practicing all along.  I doubt that this man was one of them because he led my naive stepfather to believe that he could fix him.

2. Loren smoked for many years before quitting but there were also other factors.  Asbestos was an issue in the Miami-Dade Community College science labs and in the prep room where he kept most of his office hours.  Later, levels of radon higher than 4 picocuries per liter were found in that same prep room where he spent countless hours.

3. My father’s physician told me that when alcohol abuse and heavy smoking are combined, the probability of esophageal cancer increases by a factor of 10.  My father engaged in both vices daily.  He never quit until he was unable to light his own or obtain them.

4. Not many days before she died, my maternal grandmother stepped out of her back door wearing a sleeveless dress with no coat, scarf, or hat and shoveled snow in order to be able to get to her garage.  Her pneumonia began shortly thereafter.  She never smoked and as far as I know she did not have any smoking-related lung disease.  However, her husband was a heavy smoker who smoked inside the house every day for many years as did other members of the family.  My grandmother’s lungs certainly were not helped by that.

5. My mother was a smoker from age 15 on.  Before she began smoking my father persuaded her to hold a cigarette in her hand as they slowly drove past their friends in the small town near where they lived.  It looked chic!  In short order, she began lighting them up.  As far as I know she did not have lung cancer but cigarettes caused the emphysema.

6.  Until April, my wife’s aunt was independent – happily living alone, driving, and volunteering many hours with her local animal shelter; she was one of the original founders.  Members of her family have spent countless hours and travelled great distances to assist her.  My wife has been and remains her principle advocate in every respect and has been away from home (580 miles) to be near her since this most recent setback began in April.  It began with 15 days of hospitalization followed by 85 days in a nursing home’s rehab wing.  She is now in an assisted living facility and is struggling.  Each time in the past that the lady has gotten sick, my wife has rushed to her – something I do not begrudge.  I am 100% supportive; I love the lady too.  My 20-year-old son is with his mother this very moment helping as much as he can.

This current drama with the aunt is playing back old tapes and I can see the terrible drag it is inflicting upon all of those who love her.  Sadly, it was preventable.  She smoked most of her life.  I don’t believe she ever quit entirely – not even after learning that she had emphysema.  I believe that she has been in denial about her emphysema for a very long time.


Emphysema is insidious and it never gets better.  It almost always gets worse and long periods of remission are uncommon.  In the severe stage breathing can be torture akin to that of water boarding.  Panic is common.  There is much suffering.  If you want to know what it’s like to breath with severe emphysema, particular if anxiety sets in, find a plastic coffee stirrer of the type that is circular on each end like a straw – not the type that is crimped down its long axis.  Put it in your mouth, hold your nose tightly closed, and then try to breathe through the stirrer for one full minute (if you can).  You will find that exhaling is difficult as well as inhaling.  This is what it’s like!  Sufferers run out of energy quickly.  Talking exhausts them, sometimes very quickly.  As they become more and more inactive they lose muscle mass.  Though there are many variables and the statistics are not in complete agreement, 1.5% loss of muscle mass per day is common for someone who becomes bedridden for whatever reason.  That’s a 30% loss in just 20 days – assuming that you were in fair shape at the beginning.  If you’ve been sick for a long time it’s even worse.

It’s probably not necessary for me to explain how painful lung or esophageal, or throat cancer can be and how much of a problem that pain management can be.  In spite of the morphine, my father begged me to take his life.  Even after he could no longer speak he got that message through to me.  He died about 25 minutes before the hour that I had chosen to do the “deed.”  The nurse who visited his room very infrequently that night made it clear to me that I would not be disturbed and that questions would not be asked.  I had planned to use a pillow over his face as in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  I don’t know whether or not I could have actually done it but as I look back, I recall being ready and resigned to the idea.  I also know that if I had done it, I would not have been able to come to terms with it nor find peace.

In time, I will tell the stories associated with the cancer and/or emphysema that killed 4 out of 5 of those loved ones and is taking the life of the 6th.

Smoking is simply not smart.  Don’t be a fool.  If you haven’t started – don’t.  If you are smoking – stop.  Don’t feed me this baloney that “You can’t.”  Yes you can – if you truly want to.  You might not be able to do it alone – but you can do it.

In the future at this site I will describe some of what is known about how tobacco smoke causes cancer and emphysema.

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