Back to Fitness: Do You Still Smoke Cigarettes?

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Do You Still Smoke Cigarettes? (iStock Photo)

I used to smoke cigarettes, one of the things I truly regret in life. On and off (more on than off) from my junior year in high school through my first year of veterinary school, I was a smoker, sometimes smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.

I’m taking smokers to task for this month’s column. Since I’ve been there myself, consider this an honest and respectful “talking to,” but I’m not gonna hold any punches. Smoking cigarettes is a terrible habit and, frankly, it’s hard to believe that anyone even does it anymore!

I tried my first cigarette when I was in seventh grade. It was nasty and terrible and I didn’t make it past two puffs. “Who would do this?” I can still remember thinking. That was actually a pretty good way to keep me away from cigarettes for a while. I was still young enough that nasty was indeed nasty.

Now let’s fast forward to high school, tenth grade. Throw in some peer pressure and some alcohol (yeah, my youth was full of poor decisions) and smoking cigarettes didn’t seem so nasty. I’m guessing it was probably a friend and a cute girl, but somehow, I tried them again and toughed through the burning, coughing, and terrible smell and, somehow, became a smoker.

As a teenager smoking mostly at social situations, you don’t think of yourself as a “smoker.” You look at the 50-year-old lifelong smoker and say, “Gross, that will never be me.” But time passes and you’re still smoking. You smoke in the car by yourself, you smoke before going to bed, you smoke in the morning. Soon enough, it’s nasty addiction.

It finally took a girl (Michelle!) to get me to stop. I was 23 years old and had been smoking on and off for seven years. Michelle did not smoke, and she was definitely “the one.”  I did not want to screw things up with her, so I sucked it up, and stopped. Best decision ever! Life-changing in many ways!

Was it hard? I’m sure it was. I can’t remember. I try to forget I ever smoked.

I don’t need to lecture about why anyone who is currently a smoker should stop right away.  Everyone knows how bad it is. However, despite this common knowledge, if you are still smoking, you should recite the below points of the “Smoker’s Mantra.” I made it up, but if you are smoking, then you clearly agree with all of these points.

I do not care about my physical health, and/or, I sincerely believe that I am immune to the well-known negative effects of smoking.

Guess what? Smoking is terrible for your health! Chronic lung inflammation. Recurring respiratory infections. Lung cancer. Almost guaranteed COPD with enough time. Heart disease. The list goes on and on and on. You know the old saying that says, “You can have all the riches in the world, but if you don’t have your health, you have nothing”? Well, that’s a perspective people have when they don’t have their health! You are choosing to give away your health and set yourself up for a terrible physical future. And for what? A habit?  Smoking is foolish, and as smart as you may be, if you are a smoker, you are quite foolish.

I do not care about my physical appearance. I desire to be less attractive!

Okay, maybe some of you don’t really care about your physical appearance because you’re very secure. That’s great! But choosing to make yourself look older and haggard is a very interesting choice. Regardless of your genetics, your youthful face, or your perfect smile, smoking will take a toll on all of those things. You can tell a chronic smoker not only by their wrinkled face and thickened skin, but also by their hair, their lips, and their eyes. Think you’re immune to this physical degradation?  You’re bathing yourself in smoke from burning leaves all day long. You’re not going to escape the changes!

I don’t want to be able to smell! The sense of smell is not important and I wish to live without it.

Smokers have a significant reduction in their sense of smell.  We only have five senses with which to perceive the world. Why burn that away?

I want to smell!  I realize that non-smokers all think that smokers smell terrible, even when we’re not smoking. I want to disgust people just by walking near them.

True fact: if you smoke, you smell terrible to non-smokers. Like, really terrible. Most people are polite and will hide their face and disgust, but note well that they are most definitely not impressed! If you smoke, you stink!

One of my main goals as a parent is to make sure my child becomes an avid smoker!  

Smoke, and your kids will smoke. And for the most part, as a parent, it is indeed your fault.

I have way too much money! I’m, like, so rich!

Smoking is expensive. When I smoked it was only $2 for a pack of smokes, but jeez, nowadays it’s like $5-6! That adds up to a lot of money. One of the best things I noticed about not smoking was suddenly I had a lot more spending money.

I want to one day be a huge burden on my family!

If you smoke throughout your life, you are going to have major health problems and be a burden on your family as they try to care for you.  Most of you have seen first- or second-hand someone suffering from lung cancer or COPD from smoking. It’s sad and it’s extremely tough on the families that are caring for them. Frankly, smoking is very selfish in this regard.

Okay, do you love the Smokers Mantra? Great! Keep smoking!!

But if you’re not quite sure you agree with all of these points, then quit!

Frankly, “I’ve tried quitting” is the lamest excuse I’ve ever heard. You simply need to decide to change and do it. Needing to quit smoking is indeed a “first world” problem. Consider some of the horrible things that happen to people in this world: people actually starving, kids dying of cancer, countries destroyed by war. And you are having a hard time quitting smoking? Which will instantly make you healthier!

Just quit. Decide today. Only you can decide to quit and only you can do it. No nicotine gum or support group is going to do it for you. Don’t let TV commercials or other people complicate it.  Just quit. You most definitely can do it!  Read through the Smokers Mantra again and if you don’t like it, then make a decision and be strong and don’t let anyone or anything get in your way.

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John Andersen DVM
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