Imagine two people walking to their cars, both are heavyset, but one far more than the other. Both finally quit smoking two months ago. The heavier of the two has gotten even heavier; and his many health problems have gotten worse. The other is heavy too, but he is already twenty pounds lighter than he was when he stopped smoking, and his numerous health problems seem to be declining, particularly as he feels like being more active. Same work environment, same socio-economic and geographical background, same approximate age, and same fast food preference when it comes to lunch.
“I keep smoking because it helps me keep the weight off, and being overweight is a health problem too.” How many have heard, or used a similar line? It’s true, being overweight is not good for you for many of the same reasons as smoking. However, weight control, except for certain thyroid related issues, is generally a question of moderating and balancing a necessity, food. Smoking is about doing something harmful that is not required for sustaining life and, in fact, usually shortens it.
Many still smoke. In fact, many are heavy smokers, one to two or more packs per day. Most started young, usually as teenagers. In spite of the claims of smoking as an aid to keeping off the pounds, there are a lot of overweight smokers around. Some are fortunate and can quit “cold turkey.” Do a lot of smokers gain extra pounds after quitting? Yes, but the same dedication used to stop smoking can be harnessed to lose the weight or, better still, not gain it in the first place. Consulting a physician first is the best way to avoid the weight gain problem. Ex-smokers always talk about how much feel better they feel, and usually feel better than they had in years.
“I’ve tried to quit a lot of times, and I’m just too addicted,” is the common refrain, and maybe there are degrees of truth in that statement for a lot of people. However, those responses always seem tinged with a mixture of envy and defensiveness. If there is one thing every ex-smoker learned it’s that you must want to quit before it’s going to be a success. Many make attempts at quitting, but they never last long. The reason was that they weren’t quitting because they wanted to, they were quitting because someone else wanted them to. Not to lessen the importance of family or friends in your life, but real success in ridding yourself of the habit lies with a genuine personal desire to be rid of an obviously unhealthy, increasingly expensive, and unflattering habit.
Why quit? That will depend on you, but improved health is one even most diehard smokers wouldn’t try to argue. Smoking negatively affects all the systems from head to toe, can cause cancers of the lung, cervix, bladder, pancreas, and mouth, increase risk of heart disease, stroke, and ulcers, cause high blood pressure, aggravate arthritis and breathing problems. You would think that would be reason enough. However, there are far too many examples of that not being enough motivation. How about a 50-year old male who has had cancerous polyps scraped from his voice box, twice, and was told by the doctor that he can’t scrape it anymore. If it happens again, the voice box will have to be removed. Guess who is still maintaining his thirty-six year habit? A much loved secretary who used to wheel her portable oxygen tank outside at every break, turn off the tank and take a smoke break. How about a college-educated woman and loving mother who quit smoking while she was pregnant for the sake of the baby, but started back up after the baby was born.
“Well, that’s just stupid,” most would say. No argument, but he doesn’t really want to quit, she didn’t until the day she died, and the young mother didn’t even think twice about returning to her old habit, even though she admitted she had no real craving after an eight month abstinence. Most people have lost friends to cancer and heart disease. They weren’t all smokers, but the majority of those who died relatively young (under sixty) most likely were. Attending their funerals and observing the pain of the bereaved should be enough reason for any smoker present to quit. But how many have seen the crowd loitering around outside the funeral home, smoking? How many have been one of that crowd, making wry comments to cover the uneasy feelings?
Okay, painful illness and even premature death aren’t always the strong persuaders we’d like to think they are. After all, that was somebody else’s misfortune. No one in the family ever died of cancer, and most of them smoked. True, genetic heritage does play a large role in establishing a predisposition toward contracting or not contracting certain diseases. But it’s no guarantee, and you could very well acquire the distinction of being the family first. Besides, why would you want to abuse that great gift by sucking toxins into your body, and risk not living to be the spryest 100-year old around?
Still not convinced? Okay, what about money? You know the price of a pack of cigarettes? How many used to say that when cigarettes reached a dollar or two dollars a pack they’d quit? The math isn’t very difficult. A one pack per day habit at five dollars per pack equals $1,825.00 per year out of pocket, two packs per day, double that, three packs, triple it, etc. Not to mention the extra cigarettes consumed at parties, bars, nightclubs—yes, if you drink there’s nothing like a cigarette to go with your cocktail.
Of course, if you ever put cigarettes on the credit card (just watch cigarette buyers at the checkout, it happens a lot), then you’re probably still paying interest on those. $1,825.00 could pay off a credit card debt, pay for a nice little vacation, buy something nice for the house, a new computer, or make a good investment in a hobby. It’s easy to spend five dollars per day, but not so easy to save it? Have it added to your payroll deduction as a thirty-five dollar per week deposit into a small savings account, or get a jar and put in on top of the fridge. Also, many insurance policies have substantial discounts for non-smokers, even on auto policies. You could throw that in as well. You might even want to throw in extra, as the money you’ll save on future medical bills?
What about style? Images of Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne, or Bette Davis puffing away with a real sense of style inspired many a young person to try cigarettes. It was a cool image, then. Times have changed. Bogie and John Wayne died of cancer. Awareness of the associated health issues has increased. And the smell? One of the first things everyone notices once they finally quit smoking is that their sense of smell returns dramatically, and the one thing that they smell all too well is smokers. When you smoke you don’t realize how much it permeates your hair, skin, and clothing. Perhaps the ultimate put down anyone ever received was made by a non-smoker who told a smoker that kissing them was like licking an ashtray. Ouch! Add to that the pathetic picture of a milling herd of smokers standing outside in the rain, cold, or heat, caging a smoke at break time. And if you smoke, better stock up on the best anti-wrinkle cream you can buy. Yes, exposure to cigarette smoke increases wrinkling of the skin.
“Okay! I know I should quit, but I’ve tried and it’s just too hard!”
Fair enough, even if you really want to quit, everyone must attack the problem from their own angle. There are a lot of different plans out there, but the place to start is with your physician. Your doctor is best qualified to help you determine what might work best for you, and if you should avoid certain types of stop-smoking treatments due to your specific medical condition—this is how that guy mentioned at the beginning of this article stopped smoking and lost weight.
If you still wish to smoke, dip or chew and spit, that’s your choice. Tobacco is not illegal, as long as you are of legal age. You have the liberty to jeopardize your health, waste your money, and have all the friends you will ever make in the designated smoking area—at least they won’t notice the smell. However, the smart money is on not using tobacco, and that’s the money you will have in your pocket once you quit.