This morning while driving to work I had an interesting experience. I was approaching the signal at the intersection of Route 66 and Lone Hill Ave. hoping to catch the green, because this is an exceptionally long signal. But as luck would have it I got there a few moments too late and caught the red. I glanced over to my right where a Jeep Cherokee had pulled up beside me. The driver a young woman of perhaps 30 or so was busy opening up a fresh pack of Marlboro cigarettes. I watched from the corner of my eye as she tore open the pack and pulled out a cigarette. She then began tapping the cigarette against the face of her watch to pack the tobacco in tightly before lighting it. She opened up her window about halfway, lit up and took a drag. I could almost feel the sense of relief she was experiencing as she drew in the smoke then released it slowly in a soft grey cloud. She took another drag and held her cigarette out of the window.
Being an ex smoker I’m quite familiar with the smoking ritual. I call it a ritual because that is exactly what it is, a prescribed procedure most smokers follow. There is always a ritual for most nasty habits. Consider the pot smoker, cocaine user and heroin or speed freaks. They all follow the same basic procedures, anticipation, preparation, engagement and relief. They may each have their particular nuances, but are still very much alike.
For a smoker there’s the opening of the pack – anticipation, the tapping out of a single cigarette, and packing of the tobacco, all part of the preparation phase, the lighting and the intake of smoke – engagement, and the release of the smoke – relief. Of course not all smokers pack their cigarettes, some smoke them just as they are directly from the pack. Some smokers pack the tobacco by tapping the entire pack against a hard surface several times before opening, others prefer the single cigarette method. I used the latter, and liked to use the dashboard as my tapping surface. Ah memories. I haven’t smoked in over 23 years, but still, on occasion the smell of a freshly lit cigarette smells appealing.
It was about that moment when my train of thought was interrupted by the faint smell of cigarette smoke. Apparently her smoke had found its way into my air intake vent. I immediately close the vent but the smell remained for awhile. The light finally turned green and we went on our way, but not before myself and those around me got a dose of second hand smoke.
We’ve all been told about how hazardous smoking can be and the dangers of second hand smoke. But did you realize that 1 out of every 10 deaths worldwide is caused by smoking and 1 in every 100 deaths are related to exposure to tobacco fumes. That’s about 600,000 nonsmokers a year including 165,000 children who die as a result of second hand smoke. Pretty harsh huh?
Unfortunately we falsely believe we’re safe enough by simply staying away from smoke as best we can. But avoiding second hand smoke is not as easy as it sounds. It can seep through ventilation systems, be carried by the wind, and cling to clothing and other objects where they can be easily ingested. Every time we inhale the chemicals in tobacco smoke they reach our lungs immediately and can begin causingnd damage just as quickly.
A report by the U.S Surgeon General released in December 2010 warns of the extreme danger of passive or second hand exposure to cigarette smoke. According to the report there are over 7000 chemicals in cigarette smoke including hundreds that are toxic and at least 70 known to cause cancer. Passive exposure is known to cause heart disease, lower respiratory infections, asthma, lung and other related cancers and may even play a role in the development of breast cancer. There are 20 known or suspected mammary carcinogens in cigarette smoke. Some recent studies have even linked second hand smoke to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Heart attacks can also be attributed to passive exposure as well. The toxins in the smoke damage the coronary arteries responsible for supplying blood to the heart.Over time they become blocked and result in a heart attack. Obviously the more a person is exposed to cigarette smoke the higher the health risk. Every year approximately 46,000 American nonsmokers who live with smokers die from heart disease and between 200,000 and 1 million asthmatic children in the U.S. have aggravated symptoms due to secondhand smoke. Rather than improving, the situation appears to be getting worse.
I don’t want you to think that this is an assault on smokers by some angry ex-smoker. It’s not. It’s simply a statement of fact. Through lies and deception the Tobacco Industry created this smoking monster a long time ago. They successfully conned the American people into believing that smoking was a safe and glamorous practice. Boy did they sucker us! Smoking and second hand smoke is a problem that is not going away anytime soon. There is no sure way to protect yourself or your family from second hand smoke. The best way to limit tobacco exposure is to convince smokers around you to give up the habit. Quitting can’t lessen damage already caused by smoking, but it offers almost immediate health benefits.If you don’t have your health you have nothing.
I smoked for about 20 years. For much of that time I smoked up to a pack a day. I thank God that I was able to quit when I did. At that time I had a strong desire to quit and had weaned myself from Winston’s to Winston Lights to True cigarettes which were like smoking air but still allowed me to practice the ritual.
About that same time my daughter who was 13 at the time, began an aggressive anti smoking campaign. I would find pictures of smoke blackened lungs on my pillow at night or when I’d open up the fridge there’d be a picture of someone smoking through a hole in their throat. She’d leave me these little notes all over the place, “Please stop smoking. I want you to be alive when I graduate” or “I want you to be alive for my wedding day.” Yeah she really wanted me to quit. Between her campaign, my own desire to quit and God’s help, I was successful. Thanks daughter dear! I may owe you my life!