Put That Cigarette out or Leave

Smoking is proven to kill. For some, the decline is slower than others, but what about those people who don’t have a choice? We shouldn’t only be concerned with ourselves. After all, everyone has lungs.

op-ed_Aug 2017

Health has become important in my older age. I come from a country that values freedom and individual choices, even if they are self-destructive. We are increasingly concerned, however, with how one’s choices impact others.

In addition to going along with freedom of choice, in my opinion, is logic.

Due to the climate of corporate power, many of the smoking-related disease statistics are anecdotal. One article states that one in three Chinese men will die from smoking-related diseases. Another claimed that one in five Americans—not just men—will die from smoking-related diseases. I still can’t find comparable stats for Europe or South America.

I was a swimmer in high school and college. My specialty was butterfly—like Michael Phelps, but much slower. Since I was a swimmer, I was lucky not to have time to hang out with the “bad kids.”

This is why I have a hard time understanding why anyone smokes in any confined space, whether it’s a room, a restaurant, or ridiculously, in an elevator. It’s ignorant, selfish and rude.

My father was part of the World War II generation and fought in the Pacific Theater, where “patriotic” American tobacco companies generously provided low-cost cigarettes—naturally, at taxpayer expense—to our brave fighting boys. He was a smoker.

This was also back in the days when doctors—paid generously for their expert opinions by the tobacco companies—promoted smoking as a healthy activity. Remember, “more doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette!”

My father eventually died from emphysema, which was caused by his years of smoking.

While I was in high school and still living at home, he smoked. As a dedicated athlete, it became a point of contention between us. Anytime we were sitting in the living room watching TV and he’d light up, I’d just leave the room. It was his house, so I was partly trying to be respectful. Still, we both know I was doing it to make him think about smoking and maybe cut down and quit.

I missed a lot of endings of shows and movies in those days before VHS and TiVo allowed us to record things to watch later.

My dad eventually cut down his smoking, but only when a doctor finally gave him the choice between smoking or breathing. Although he made the right choice, it was already too late. With emphysema, the good news is that it is long, drawn out and doesn’t kill you quickly. The bad news is that it is long and drawn out and doesn’t kill you quickly.

By the late 1970s and into the 80s, doctors were finally pushing back against tobacco companies and telling the truth about smoking. More importantly, we started focusing on second-hand smoke.

Researchers discovered that being in the same space as smokers and inhaling any smoke from their cigarettes or exhalation was just as bad as smoking itself. Some research indicated that it was actually worse for the non-smoker, who, presumably, had perfectly pink lungs that were undamaged by the direct effects of inhaling cigarette smoke.

This is why I have a hard time understanding why anyone smokes in any confined space, whether it’s a room, a restaurant, or ridiculously, in an elevator. It’s ignorant, selfish and rude.

Today, we have an abundance of facts from hard research about the damaging physical effects of smoking. This is why some countries no longer permit people to smoke indoors. Not in offices, not in restaurants, not in any public place.

Every time I see someone smoking, I have to wonder: Why? Why start in the first place? Why do it at all? Do you really think it’s cool? Do you really think you look cool? When it comes time for your funeral, can we put a cigarette in your mouth as you’re lying in the coffin so you can continue to look cool? Just asking.

Now, for those who have made the mistake of starting and would like to quit there have been many successful methods.

One friend got a job in a factory that had very flammable materials. He quit immediately. Motivation always helps.

Others may need to find a way to replace the nicotine addiction. There are various products that are widely available, such as nicotine gum or patches, which deliver nicotine directly into the skin to prevent the need for smoking, and hopefully, enabling quitting altogether. Plus, with this being China, acupuncture is also an option. Quitting takes effort, but it can be done.

I’ll leave you with a famous quote used in various contexts about smoking and the people who smoke:

“Fire on one end and a fool on the other.”

Think about it.