The other day I overheard some teenage girls chatting at the mall about a boy one of their other friends was hanging out with.
And they weren’t happy about it.
Not because the boy was a jerk or he was practically failing out of high school.
They didn’t like him because he smoked.
“Ew,” one teen said, scrunching up her face. “That’s just disgusting.”
We’ve come along way from the days when smoking was considered cool. In fact, smoking rates are down from a generation ago, thanks to awareness about the health risks, a ban on tobacco ads broadcast on TV and government-mandated restrictions of smoking in public spaces.
According to Dr. Cynthia J. Goto, spokesperson for the Hawaii Tobacco Quitline, smoking has decreased dramatically over the past decade.
But despite what seems like common knowledge that smoking is bad for you — heck, it’s even printed on the packaging! — there are still an estimated 24.8 million men and 21.1 million women in the United States who smoke, according to the American Heart Association.
In Hawaii alone, tobacco use is the state’s No. 1 cause of preventable death and it costs the state $104 million a year in health care costs to treat just female smokers suffering from tobacco-related illnesses. And that’s despite a statewide ban of smoking in all public places, enacted in November 2006.
So why do people still smoke?
Well, most times people start when they’re young — and dumb. Nearly 80 percent of all adult smokers became regular smokers by the age of 18, reported the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, with 90 percent doing so before exiting their teen years.
According to folks who responded to my callout on Facebook and Twitter, some said they smoke when they’re stressed, others when they’re bored and a lot — more than I had expected — when they’re drinking. (Something about a buzz.) I know one person who used to smoke when he drove home late a night just to keep him awake. Go figure.
But in all, no one really wants to smoke. They may miss it — as many of my friends who quit do — but they know it’s better to stay away from the cancer sticks.
Not that’s it’s that easy to quit.
Some used the patch; others tried to quit cold turkey. I know a few who tried using electric cigarettes to no avail.
The hardest part about quitting smoking, said Goto, is changing your routine.
“For some people, they hardest part may be being around other smokers,” she said. “For others, it’s hard to do activities that they did while smoking. For example, some smokers are used to drinking coffee and smoking early in the morning. For both of these, it would be best if, for the first few weeks, you change your routine. The cravings are the hardest for the first two to four weeks, so it would be best if you can stay away from things that trigger your cravings for smoking.”
But there’s no point in smoking. Really. It can lead to various cancers and diseases, including heart disease and stroke, not to mention it’s just plain foul.
And let’s not forget death. That’s an unsurprising result of smoking, too.
“I used to smoke when I was stressed. It may be in my head but it did calm me,” said friend Lena Hanson via Facebook. “My dad died last year from emphysema and smoking for 40-plus years. It’s a horrible, long process. It’s not easy watching someone die slowly.”
Makes me glad I never started.
CALL TO ACTION
This week is National Women’s Health Week, a week-long health observance that empowers women to make their health a top priority and encourages them to take simple steps for a longer, healthier, and happier life.
And one of those things is to quit smoking. Here are some tips, courtesy of the Hawaii Tobacco Quitline:
• Throw out the cigarettes: Having them around is a temptation you just don’t need.
• Know your smoking triggers: Your mind is conditioned to want a cigarette in certain places, at specific events, when you’re with particular people, or when you’re feeling a certain emotion. As you’re in the process of quitting, take the time to recondition your mind to deal with these people, places and things without a puff.
• Drink lots of water: Cigarettes contain thousands of toxins. While you’re quitting, take the opportunity to flush some of the poisons out with water,
For more resources or for help, contact the Hawaii Tobacco Quitline, (800) QUIT-NOW or (800) 784-8669.
“It’s easy to quit smoking. I’ve done it a hundred times.” (Mark Twain)
It can be a powerful habit, and I know it was for me. Like a weight problem, it is a bit different for everyone. I didn’t quit for good the first time I tried, or the second,… I smoked for 17 years, and I haven’t had a cigarette in almost 17 years (since August 19, 1994). The urge does fade with time, and the advice in the blog today may be just the encouragement someone out there needs to give it up for good or for others of us to stay off of them.
I love that quote! And congratulations on quitting. It’s not easy. My mom used to smoke — in fact, I think she smoked when she was pregnant, which wasn’t unheard of at the time — and I’ve heard how hard it is to ditch the habit. So big props!
I smoked when I was a teen between the ages of 16 to 19. I quit cold turkey because one of my friends did; that was many years ago. It was the best decision I made in my life (health wise anyway). I will still fire up a cigar occaisionally, some habits are hard to break.
I was born in the late 50’s (yeah, I’m old), back when it seemed everyone smoked and anywhere and everywhere, in restaurants, and on buses and planes. I grew up in Honolulu in a household where my parents and grandparents smoked heavily. Even so–or maybe because of it–for as long as I can remember, I have thought smoking to be one of the most horribly disgusting things a person can do. The very sight of an ashtray at the dinner table nauseated me. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time outdoors where the air was clear of second-hand smoke. What I never could understand is how anyone could even want to start such a habit that, to me, was so incredibly unappealing.
Here’s hoping that we keep doing whatever it is we’re doing to minimize the number of people who engage in this deadly and addictive habit.
I agree — but then again, I always hear complaints from smokers about their rights. In fact, right now there are protests in Belgium, where the government is looking at banning smoking in public places. So there’s that side of the argument, too.
I’ve never smoked. In my younger years, I put up with it because for who knows why – especially from my relatives. I actually sat in a compact car and drove from Kahului to Lahaina with the a/c blasting while my passenger puffed away. I put up with it and no one had smoking etiquette back then.
As I got older, my tolerance diminished to the point where I could not stand to be in the same house as a smoker. I would either go outside or if it was at my place, I’d be yellilng at the smoker to go outside. No smoking sections on an airplane were a joke especially if you were seated in the non smoking section right in front of the smoking section.
Thankfully smokers now are usually more considerate to non smokers but in the ideal world, no one would smoke.
There were smoking sections on airplanes?!?!?! Whoa!
Wife & I formally smoked and quit at the same time in the early 70’s. There’s a lung cancer history on my fathers side from smoking and my mom had breast cancer. Both died at age 55, 6 mos apart. Our daughter smoked since high school and thru the years we’ve cautioned her about the hazard. Before each of the births of her two daughters, she would quit but get back into it after. Well, finally, she took the leap using a doctors prescribed pill and she’s successfully ended that nasty addiction, with no craving and it’s been 5 mos. PTL.
Congratulations on quitting! Not easy! And it’s especially important if you have a history of cancer in your family. That’s why I never picked up the habit… Well, that and I imagine the aftertaste isn’t good for my palette. 🙂
my dad used to smoke… but once his sons were born (my bro and I) he stopped… my grandpa used to smoke cigars, but once his grandkids were born (my bro and I) he stopped… so what’s the secret? Have a kid… hehe Seriously though, I know it’s hard to quit… I have friends who’ve tried for a hundred times… something that was once psychological dependence, soon becomes an almost physiological dependence… IDK how to change it…
It’s true about having kids. I know that’s the reason my mom quit. Though I’m the third one… maybe you have to have three kids! 🙂
I quit smoking for about a month now and it’s really difficult. I started back in high school and regret ever starting in the first place. Since I’ve been tobacco free I haven’t been able to stop eating.
LOL! That would be the only reason why I would even START smoking — to stop eating! Then again, I think I love eating way more than I could ever love smoking!
I quit smoking over 30 years ago and I’m glad I did!