If you don't smoke or don't have cancer, you don't have to read this chapter. I have never tried to talk any person without cancer into quitting smoking. Everyone has read so much about it and knows how bad it is for their health and those around them that if they wanted to stop, they would. My criticizing them, trying to give them a guilty conscience or repeatedly suggesting they quit would do no good.
Tobacco has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt to be a carcinogen, a cancer causing agent. It was my understanding that any carcinogen was prohibited by federal law. However, because of the tobacco industry's powerful political lobby along with the clout of the owners of the cigarette vending machines, tobacco has been legislated exempt from all safety and health laws relating to carcinogens. Rather than try to convince millions of Americans to quit smoking, I believe it would be easier to convince 51% of the few hundred Congressmen and Senators to remove this exemption. I am not trying to put the tobacco companies out of business. I firmly believe that within 3 to 6 months they would be on the market with a product that could satisfy the need of people equally well without being a carcinogen. I have this much faith in American ingenuity. It can be done.
However, I was told where the fallacy lay in my reasoning. Cigarettes are blamed for 125,000 Americans' deaths each year from cancer. That's some 2,500 a week. These are the lives that could be saved from cancer. However, cigarettes kill some 350,000 Americans each year. Therefore, even if we could make them non-carcinogenic, they would still kill some 225,000 Americans from heart problems, lung problems and other causes. I nonetheless think it is worth saving the 125,000 Americans each year and maybe the successor to the cigarette might not cause heart or lung problems.
Within seven seconds after a drag off a cigarette, the brain receives a "hit" of nicotine. The pack-and-a-half-per-day smoker will deliver about 350 drug hits of nicotine to the brain daily - that is 2,520 hits each week, 131,040 hits each year, or over seven million addictive hits in the smoker's lifetime. Not even eating is that successful a conditioned behavior!
Not all smokers, however, are nicotine dependent. There seems to be a spectrum with psychological dependence at one end and nicotine at the other. Possibly, individuals who successfully stop "cold turkey" on their own are at the psychological-dependence end while those who, like Mark Twain, have stopped hundreds of times "in the last year" are at the nicotine-dependent end of the spectrum.
A nicotine preparation inpregnated in a gum complex is now available by prescription. If used properly, this nicotine gum should double long-term success rates in smoking cessation. To lower cardiac and pulmonary disease risk, to say nothing of cancer, the patient must stop smoking. There is no safe cigarette.
The reason I don't like to see a cancer patient smoking is much deeper than the fact that a cigarette is carcinogenic. I believe that for a person to overcome cancer, they must organize all their resources and do everything possible. They know that a cigarette is not good for them.
When I see a cancer patient light a cigarette, they are sending me a message. They might lick cancer, but they are not willing to do everything possible to achieve that end result. They will beat it if is is convenient. I want to know that way deep down they are willing to do everything possible to beat cancer, and, if giving up smoking is part of the price they have to pay, then they will.
No one will say giving up smoking is fun or easy. I was a cigarette smoker for probably 35 years - some 2 to 2 /2 packs a day. Sure, I went to filters when they came out, and then I went to low tar and nicotine. I knew deep down that they were all bad for me. I justified it on the basis that I got so much pleasure from them and that my dad smoked all his life and didn't get cancer. When I finally quit, I found that I could enjoy life just as much or more without them. I sure paid the price for having smoked with my lung cancer.
How did I give them up? It wasn't easy, but this is why I never try to talk anyone else into quitting. I wanted to, and I believe that is the only way. I do not believe anyone can successfully give up smoking unless they really want to.
I woke up around 5 a.m. one morning in a hotel room with a beautiful view. I lay there looking out the open sliding doors. What a magnificent sight, I thought to myself. I think I want to stick around and watch this for a while. I am not going to smoke today. I don't know about tomorrow, but I am not going to smoke today. I remembered hearing about the methods of Alcoholics Anonymous where they never give up drinking but just don't drink from one day to the next. Well, this is what I've been doing with cigarettes for many years now. It is possible that I could smoke tomorrow, but I know I won't smoke today.
Sure, it was tough, but what rewards I have reaped. First, I realized my life is every bit as pleasant and even more so than before. I don't worry about dropping ashes and burning tables, clothes or whatever. I don't have that bad taste in my mouth, bad breath or stains on my fingers and teeth. Food tastes good. I'm not hoarse, and I lost the persistent cough. Most of all, I would have hated to have to give up cigarettes simultaneously with the treatments I went through, or any other medical treatments for that matter.
When my doctor was going to give me chemotherapy, it was suggested that I smoke marijuana to reduce the possible nausea. I refused because I know the anguish I went through in stopping, and I would rather be nauseous than go through quitting again. No one has to tell me how tough it is to quit.
It's no fun, but it can be done. If you really want to live and beat cancer, you will do everything in your power to accomplish this. You know smoking cannot help you. It can only hurt you. It is one of the things you have in your power to do something about. If you are honest and you sincerely want to try to beat cancer, prove it by not taking another cigarette today.