I’ve been bitching about cigarette smoking for nearly 35 years and have only been a “former smoker” for 20 of that. I knew even before I quit that it was killing me, but funny thing about addictions: they’re difficult to break.
Took me nearly 22 years to quit drinking and more than that to stop smoking. But I did and a year into healing, my primary care physician looked into my eyes during a physical exam and said, in an astonished voice, “Your lungs are clear.”
The body has amazing healing powers. For the next 20 years, I was without even a touch of bronchitis, which I had tolerated nearly six months of every year as a smoker—smoking through the coughing.
These days, I try to convince people with the logic of numbers to quit smoking or to avoid starting. That probably never works. If I say, “You stink,” to a smoker, or perhaps, “Your teeth are really yellow,” I think, it’s far more effective.
Still, I’m going to give you some stats from the American Cancer Society as the Great American Smokeout approaches. They will get your attention, I think, though my guess is smokers will simply blow a smoke ring at them. Here they are:
- Nearly half a million (480,000) Americans are killed every year by smoking and second-hand smoke. The worldwide numbers—which I don’t have—would dwarf that. Eighty-seven percent of lung cancer deaths are smoking related.
- There remain 42 million Americans who smoke cigarettes, 13.4 million who smoke cigars and 2.3 million who prefer pipe smoke.
- Non-smokers live 10 years longer than smokers.
- Low-income New Yorkers spend 25 percent of their income on cigarettes.
- There are 7,000 chemicals and compounds in tobacco and 69 of them have been found to cause cancer.
- Every day, 3,200 American children smoke their first cigarette.