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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Kicking the Habit

(Blogger's Note: Years ago, I wrote an article on smoking which appeared in our award-winning city newspaper Suffolk News-Herald. "Add Years to Your Life: Quit Smoking" was the title of the article and was published on Thursday, May 15, 2008, to be exact. For our readers interested in the content of my piece, I suggest you visit the paper's archive and, hopefully, you'll be able to access it. Now, the following was initially scribbled on my notebook/journal, 01.11.2014. I didn't submit it immediately to SNH for whatever concern/s or reason/s I may have at that time. This time, though, I'm more emboldened, motivated and committed to share my thoughts and views to the public because, I do believe, I have an obligation to enlighten, inform and/or educate our fellowmen, brothers and sisters, and our youth, and try to make a difference in others' lives. With revision and update, here's  my take on the issue. Hopefully, we see a change in attitude/behavior and perspective for those who have engaged in this act that is considered a public, if not personal, health issue.)

 At the outset, I applaud the decision of CVS Pharmacy on Wednesday, Feb. 5, this year, to kick the habit of selling cigarettes and tobacco products in its 7,600 stores nationwide, effective this fall. That's a very bold move by this pharmacy chain that will forfeit over a billion dollar per year revenue from its tobacco sale. With that historic announcement on Wednesday, the chain is challenging other retailers to do the same. That's my wishful thinking, too.

I have nothing against people who smoke, aka smokers. But I despise smoking, the act of doing it, and its portrayal and advertisement, and glamorization, in our society. Commercializing it is costly to advertisers and cigarette (manufacturing) companies, yet it will eventually yield fortune or profit to the above entities and stores that promote and sell cigarettes. But to those who were enticed or lured by, and finally addicted to it, it becomes costlier or more expensive. Hence, it's a societal problem with its effects to overall health and economy to our nation.

It's mind-boggling to me why or what prompt people to engage in cigarette and/or tobacco smoking. I don't judge or question their knowledge, or lack thereof, about the benefits, if there's any, of smoking, much more so that I'm puzzled, and left in the dark, as to why they do it if and when they know that it brings (or gives) harm than good to their body/health and pocket.

I have heard people who smoke say that it's cool; that it makes them feel good, at ease, relaxed, chic and classy. It's satisfying, they say. It's like a cure, a panacea, a diversion or an escape that's worth-indulging in. But I beg to disagree to the above "hyping" of smoking. Why? I don't smoke, yet I feel good and at ease. I feel alive and well, sans smoking (despite my physical disability, that is, chronic lower back problems and other health/medical issues that were service-connected).

I strongly believe that smoking is harmful, unhealthy, dangerous and debilitating. Case in point: As a retired U.S. Navy veteran, I have worked in naval hospitals and clinics in all of my 20 years of military service. I have seen a resurgence of patients coming in and out, with their health problems associated with (years of) smoking. I have X-rayed patients (in and out) over and over, with lung problems, i.e., chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary edema, asthma, etc. (Btw, if you see an adult carrying a small tank of oxygen in a clinic, hospital, or a store or elsewhere, most likely he or she did smoke.) Observably, their health deteriorated. They were hospitalized for how long, and others didn't make it to live longer.

On the other hand, we have heard of secondhand smoking, too. There are people in public (in our midst) who smoke, sniffing in and puffing out toxic fumes or smoke, yet they're not cognizant of their environment---people, young and old, even babies, around them. Apparently, these people who don't smoke seem to be already smoking, too.With enough toxicity of chemicals inhaled and constant exposure to smoke, these people will ultimately exhibit signs and symptoms of respiratory, cardiovascular diseases, and other health problems of one who does smoke regularly. I'm sure a lot of research out there account to the fact that smoking and secondhand smoke is harmful and unhealthy. We have learned about the health effects and risks of smoking and secondhand smoke, i.e., the retardation of/or stunted growth and development of a human being, especially a baby or a child, the impotence or sterility of adult male, low birth weight, increase risks of birth defects and miscarriage; that it can cause cancer (lung, bone marrow and blood, bladder, cervix, kidneys and ureters, mouth, larynx or voice box, trachea, nose and throat, esophagus, pancreas, and stomach), coronary heart disease, cataracts (clouding of the eye's lens, hence, blurred vision), bone, tooth and gums health, and tooth loss, etc. The list goes on and on, from Center for Disease Control and Prevention of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

If smoking is cool, chic, and classy, why are people suffering or dying from it? What compel or prompt a group of our population to smoke? If people are knowledgeable about the toxic elements in cigarettes and tobacco products, or the harmful effects of smoking, in general, why do they still engage in it?

I'm so glad and thankful that my brother, also a retired U.S. Navy veteran, quit smoking after years of doing it. Mind you, he was a chain smoker for a decade or two. I did pray for him to quit, matter-of-fact.

We have smoking cessation programs in hospitals and other facilities that promote health, fitness, and well-being. Let's avail ourselves of these programs that will help us live longer or add years to our life, and life to our years.

Kicking the habit of smoking is a personal choice that involves personal discipline and control, and commitment, and empowerment to change for a better life, a healthy lifestyle. It is never too late to quit smoking, folks and friends. As they say, you be the change. You can be a role model for/to your family, friends, others to emulate. Do me, yourself and others a big favor: Stop smoking, please! Just use your money to buy nutritious food for yourself and/or your family. Or better save it for a rainy day, as they say.

Here are some more facts and statistics on health effects of smoking, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, national Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health:
1.) Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
2.) Cigarette smoking causes more than 440,000 deaths each year in the United States. This is about one in five deaths.
3.) Smoking causes more deaths each year than all of these combined: a) Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), b) Illegal drug use, c) Alcohol use, d) Motor vehicle injuries, e) Firearm-related incidents.
4.) Smoking causes about 90% (or 9 out of 10) of all lung cancer deaths in men, and 80% (or 8 out of 10) of all lung cancer deaths in women. More women die from lung cancer each year than from breast cancer.
5.) About 90% ( or 9 out of 10) of all deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are caused by smoking.
6.) Smokers are more likely than non-smokers to develop heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.

For more information about this topic, please visit e-mail:, or call 1-800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636).

(c) 2014 by Chris A. Quilpa

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