Up in Smoke: The Great American Smoke-Out
Like many good ideas, The Great American Smokeout started small in a small town in Massachusetts in 1971. A high school guidance counselor asked students, teachers, and staff to give up cigarettes for one day and donate the money they would have spent on smokes to a college scholarship fund. In 1976, the California Division of the American Cancer Society adopted the idea and re-named it the Great American Smokeout.
This past week, America marked its 33rd Great American Smokeout Day and while millions have quit, smoking itself is still going strong. This is partially attributable to the nefarious ways that the tobacco companies have successfully marketed their products, but mostly attributable to the powerful addiction to nicotine.
I smoked during my college days, and for a couple of years after college, then finally kicked the habit. I learned then that quitting smoking was not an easy thing to do.
I had a half dozen false starts. But finally I stuck with it and I snuffed out my last cigarette three decades ago. I don’t for a moment doubt the powerful addiction of nicotine having once been held in its grip.
But to all my brothers and sisters who have never reached the point where they could kick the habit for good, I’d like to make my pitch to flush those damn little death sticks down the drain.
Smoking is like the friend that always lies to you. You enjoy its company. It appears to bring you comfort when needed, and distraction from your daily worries when wanted, but like the friend that comes and steals from you in the night, it is the last thing you want to invite into your life.
I have known so many people whose lives have been cut short because of cigarettes. Robbed of the chance to cry tears of joy at their daughter’s wedding, attend their son’s college graduation, kiss their spouse on the morning of their 35th wedding anniversary, or rock their grandchild to sleep in their arms.
What a rotten outcome for choosing a rotten companion. Particularly one that gave you such satisfaction when that first deep drag, followed by the nearly instant hit of nicotine as smoke filled your lungs and nicotine rushed through your bloodstream, gave you that needed kick your body was craving.
You can’t help but get a bit of a laugh over a photo like this. A 1943 Saturday Evening Post cover of a nurse lighting the cigarette of a recovering vet. Cigarettes were once a part of the landscape. It’s still with us today in a big way, but steadily it’s being pushed back into the shadows of our society.
Here’s my hope that we keep pushing it further and further into the shadows,. Down into the ash bin of history. An ignoble death disguised as the passion of the heroic loner. Cigarettes, then, now, and forever: A deadly deceit, a lothsome killer in the form of a passing pleasure.
The Great American Smokeout is an invitation for smokers to take the first step toward quitting forever.
For more information and help with tobacco cessation, call 1-800-784-8669 or visit the http://www.smokefree.gov/ website.
Do it now,