Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Hooray! The Smokeout is Winning Out

With violence at home and abroad dominating the news lately, the 38th Great American Smokeout on Nov. 20 passed with little notice. That was too bad, because news on the anti-smoking front is good.

The Smokeout for a time was a date when users were urged to quit for a single day, hoping that would lead them to stay tobacco-free thereafter. Lately, more emphasis is given to helping smokers develop a plan for quitting, drawing on many resources.

It's working. According to the most recent reports from the  U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking is continuing to decrease. For middle grade and high school students, the rate has declined from 28 percent in 2001 to 12.7 percent last year. The rate for adults 18 and older dropped from 23 percent to about 18 percent. Back in 1965, smoking was very popular and acceptable; about 42 percent of adults smoked. I was one of them.

I smoked for 50 years. My daily consumption of cigarettes ran between one and two packs. I also
puffed on cigars sometimes, and tried pipes of various types. I am an addict. If there were places for ex-smokers to meet regularly for support, I would be one of those to rise and state: "My name is Dick Klade. I am a tobaccoholic. I've been clean for 13 years."

How do I know I'm an addict? In 1963, I made a strong attempt to end my cigarette habit. I went completely to pipe smoking, and didn't inhale the fumes. That lasted three years. One evening, after a stressful day at work, I stopped at a drug store on the way home, bought a pack of cigarettes and resumed puffing as though I'd never stopped. I wasn't able to kick the cigarette habit again for 38 years.

Quitting all tobacco use for good was one of the most difficult things I've ever done. Beautiful wife Sandy and I, after consulting our family doctor, formed a detailed plan that included an exercise program. We set a firm stop date. Sandy curtailed her usual activities and provided strong support for the two weeks it took to get beyond my most urgent needs to puff. Progress was complicated by the complete failure of medication intended to help me with stress. It produced a violent reaction, raising a red rash over most of my body.

One of the surprising things about tobacco addiction is how differently it affects different people. One of our closest friends was able to smoke a pack a day for weeks and suddenly stop for days, weeks, or months without apparent effort. One of my golfing buddies said he didn't believe how hard it was for me to quit. He had smoked for 20 years. "When I quit, I just tossed my last pack in the trash and stopped," he said. "What's the big deal?"

Another pal had been clean for 10 years after 25 years of puffing. He said in his dreams he still saw himself smoking a cigarette in every scene he could remember upon waking. Strangely, some of the public service ads on TV encouraging quitting give me a strong urge to resume smoking. While other quitters came to dislike the smell of second-hand smoke, I enjoyed it, and I do to this day.

And I know if a pleasant whiff of smoke led me to light up just one cigarette, I would be right back into a two-pack a day habit. I hope the Smokeout sponsors and others promoting quitting succeed in helping us reach the day when no tobacco products (or e-cigarettes) are around to tempt me or anyone else to do one of the worst things possible to themselves.


Marc Leavitt said...

hi, Dick:

It's nice to talk to a fellow addict. I started to smoke one fall day in 1955. I was a freshman in high school, and like all teens, I swanted desperately to belong to the group. Everybody smoked (or so it seemed).
I bought a pack of Old Gold Filters for 25 cents, and lit my first fag; took a deep drag, and nearly fell on the sicdewalk, overcome by dizzyness.

I kept myself from falling by putting my hand on the wall of the brick building I was standing next to, took a second drag, and decided I liked the nicotine rush. I was launched on a career of cigarettes, occasional cigars,a fifteen-minute experiment with snuff (disgusting!), and a serious apprenticeship in the trade of pipe smoking.

Thirty years later, an over-eager young doctor called me at work and told me that my recent x-rays shoswed spots on the upper-right quadrant of my right lung (It was a false alarm; six months later when I was re-x-rayed, the radiologist told me the spots were an indication of slight calcification).

I broke into a cold sweat, and immediately stopped smoking. Cold turkey.

After making people miserable by crusading against tobacco, I eventually forgot about cigarettes, until two years later, when I took a trip to Tahiti.

One night I was in the lounge at the nearby club.It was one a.m. A pretty young girl I was talking to (I was divorced at the time), lit up a Marlboro.

"Can I have a puff?" I asked.

"No," she said, "but I'll give you one."

I took a drag; then another; then another. Within a few days I was back to smoking two and a half packs a day.

That was 25 years ago.

Nicotine is probably the most addictive drug in the world. I know all the pro's and con's, but at 74, I'm still smoking, irrational as that is. I can stop immediately without any problems; I've done it a number of times. But in the end, I'm still puffing away.

Dick Klade said...

Marc: At my age, I'd probably accept just about anything a pretty Tahitian gal offered. Chances of any offers? Zero or less.

Alan G said...

This is a post where I’m sure a whole lot of folks like you have a story to tell. I officially confessed myself as a smoker to my parents in 1958 and smoked for the next 43 years in similar quantities as you until 2001. Unlike many I had often considered quitting but never gave it a serious try like some of you. Maybe a day, two at best but that was it. But now, just like you I have been on the wagon for some 13 years.

My smoking began to weigh much heavier on my mind when I lost my mom to lung cancer in 1997. As I found myself approaching age 60 and already experiencing very minor shortness of breath issues, I finally made the commitment to myself to quit. It seemed the milestone of reaching age “60” was an excellent starting point for a serious commitment.

My theoretical technique for quitting was simple in theory but was obviously was going to be difficult when I began the implementation phase and it was… from the git-go. I played a mind-game with myself. After getting through my “first day” of not smoking, I simply kept reminding myself that I had that “first day” behind me and if I kept moving forward I would never have to live through another “first day” of quitting smoking. Then came the completion of the “first week” – again, keep moving forward I told myself and you’ll never have to endure the misery of that “first week” ever again in this life. After reaching a month, then two months I began to feel a sense of pride that I was actually gaining the upper hand on my foe. Then after those first several months when I began smelling the smoke of other smokers I actually felt a measure of shame that people had to put up with that smell when they were around me for all those years… assuming of course they weren’t smokers. But I did make it and have never looked back thank goodness.

There are times when I may have a fleeting dream while sleeping about smoking a cigarette but I never go back to smoking in the dream, but I am desperately trying to sneak a quick smoke in some secluded area just for old time’s sake!

Dick Klade said...

Alan: Interesting how similar, yet different in important matters, experiences of ex-smokers can be. I wasn't diagnosed with any medical problem until years after I quit. Then our doc thought I had lung cancer, which turned out to not be true. However, about five years later I nearly stopped breathing, landed in a hospital, and was found to have COPD, sort of a combination of emphysema and bronchitis. My COPD is controlled well by using two inhalers daily. Hope it stays that way; I have little interest in carting an oxygen bottle around.

Tom Sightings said...

Good to bring this up. I smoked for years. Finally gave it up, and have absolutely no desire to go back. But I was dismayed to find out that my ex-wife went back to it, after 20 years. But now she does electronic cigarettes, which hopefully are better. (One of my good friends does the electronics as well). Anyway Kathy at Smart Living also did smoking post at http://smartliving365.com/im-grateful-quitter-wish-everyone-else/.

Alan G said...


When I retired in 2003 I sarcastically noted to my co-workers that I was going to the house and sit on my ass for the rest of my life. Little did I know that like you, COPD/emphysema overheard my remark and was more than willing to step up and make an excellent effort in the next ten years assisting me in reaching that goal. Last year I gave up any last remnant of outside activities such as yard work and have no one to blame of course but myself. Perhaps I could share some of the blame with the culture of the day back then like those cigarette ads where even doctors were recommending Camel cigarettes but in the end… well, you know.

Dick Klade said...

Tom: Thanks for the link to Smart Living 365. Kathy did a great job describing her reasons for urging smokers to quit.

Kathy said...

Hi Dick! Thank you for stopping by SMART Living and letting me know that you appreciated my post about quitting smoking. It was my first "sponsored" post which is kind of cool--but more importantly I think it is such an important issue and was happy to share my story if it could help make a difference to anyone else. I'm going to have to pop over and check out your article now. I love the connections that we can make here on the internet.

schmidleysscribblins.com said...

David had a sister and mother (both smokers) die from lung cancer. My dad shortened his life by smoking (long story). The only thing about the smoke out that bothered me, was what would happen to farmers in NC. Mostly, they have turned to organic vedgetable faming or mass producing pigs.

Although I despise the mass production of any animals, some pig raising methods are more humane (Gov, Christie just signed a bill giving pregnant sows some relief from too-small crates). I am also happy to see lots of organic veggies on tables. Apparently, even Walmart sells them.

Now I ask you will the same rules apply to marijuana as did to tobacco? I hope so.

Jhawk23 said...

Not a smoker myself, but my wife was when we met - a couple of packs of unfiltered Pall Malls a day was her particular habit. Eventually she decided she really wanted to quit (no, really, I didn't nag!) but like others who have commented here, she had trouble giving up that one last cigarette.
In the end, hypnotism did the trick, a group session in which the fellow taught them that whenever they felt a craving for smoke, they'd take a drink of water instead.
We celebrate the date every year with a fancy dinner - it's been 35 years now. And she still drinks a lot of water.

Big John said...

Before I gave up smoking about 30 years ago, I loved American cigarettes, which were very expensive here in the UK. I would smoke each one down to the last half inch.
What I always found strange when I visited the USA was that my American friends and family only seemed to smoke half (sometimes less) a cigarette before stubbing it out.

Dick Klade said...

Maybe you merely observed typical American wastefulness, John. The father of one of my boyhood friends left two or three lit cigarettes at a time in various ashtrays throughout his store. I don't think he ever finished more than half of one before it burned out.

Jerry E Beuterbaugh said...

Surely this is a site well worth seeing.

Kay said...

I can believe how hard it is to quit. My sister-in-law just can't do it. It's such an expensive habit too. Good for you for having done it.