I have done some pretty stupid things in my life, but smoking was one of the stupidest. I started this stupidity when I was 17, and a freshman at Syracuse University. On the verge of a nervous breakdown (I was depressed being away from home and, therefore, despised everything about the place), I turned to cigarettes. God knows why, but I did!
I made a number of half-hearted attempts to stop in my 20s, but failed at every one. I am embarrassed to admit that I even smoked throughout my two pregnancies. By the time I was 34, in 1981, I was smoking over two packs a day. A writer at the New York Daily News at the time, I distinctly remember writing about Sandra Day O’Connor’s nomination to the Supreme Court, and smoking non-stop throughout the day. I was determined that the article be so good, it would land on the first page; I, like all my smoking colleagues, thought smoking calmed our nerves and made us better journalists. HA!
Two years later, when my son Colby was around 4, he made a comment about my clothes smelling of smoke, which became the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Still lacking the willpower to stop on my own (smoking is one of the toughest addictions to break), I spent $250 for a private session at a hypnotist. Holy moly, it worked. I haven’t even touched a cigarette in 32 years, meaning I wouldn’t even pick up an unlit cigarette to hand to someone.
Quitting smoking was one of the wisest decisions I’ve ever made in my life, and even though my lungs are as a clear as a non-smoker’s, I still worry that I’ll develop lung cancer. I also know there’s nothing I can do about it at this point, but I am often tempted to go up to every single smoker on the street and tell them to please stop (I don’t because it would be a waste of time. No one can make a smoker stop; she has to make the decision on her own.)
I recently heard on NPR that there are over 300 million smokers in China. Nearly 30 percent of adults there smoke, including 53 percent of all men. The proportion of people who smoke in China has remained steady since 2006, but with the population growing, China gained almost 100 million smokers between 1980 and 2012. These figures are alarming!
If you’re a smoker, I hope that you recognize the reasons you must stop and find the strength to actually do it. One of my oldest friends died last year of throat cancer. She only found the strength to stop after her diagnosis. Unfortunately, it was too late.