Some Of You Just Need To Butt Out!

OK, OK, you don't need to get put out over the title. The fact is, it may save your life. So listen up and share the story if it doesn't pertain to you.

Last evening we were in discussion with a new friend, Daniel. He shared his journey with one type of butt or the other and his addictions to them. No, he's not kinky, or at least I don't think he is.

Dan evoked many thoughts from my past as we sat there. Like Dan, I had learned to butt-out a long time ago. I was about 16 and haven't butted back in since. While, like most people, his struggle continued on into his young adult life.

Yes, I'm talking about smoking. "Smoking what?", you ask. You go first! I'm waiting. Are you expecting a confession? You won't get one. At least not in this article. Give me a call, and we'll discuss it. Lighten up, folks.

So none of you ever smoked a cigarette, much less marijuana. Good for you. But for those of you who ever did or do, or know someone who is, listen up!

What The Experts Are Saying:

According to C. Everett Koop, it's never too late to butt-out. Those were his words. Well, his and co-writers Michael Flore, and Chris Hollenback in a recent AARP article (Sept. 08).

Since the 60s-70s we have come a long way, baby. Reports began surfacing that smoking was not safe for our health. Many of us quit. Many of us didn't. As a matter of fact, currently more than 18 million Americans 45 and older are smokers. And indeed, the percentages are not retreating. They have actually gone up five percent since 2000. Yet, seven out of 10 smokers say they want to break the habit and butt out (OK, OK, so they didn't say it that way). Not exactly. The problem is, breaking the habit is dreadfully difficult.

My Own Expertise

Speaking empirically, I began smoking at the tender age of 14. Wow! And, yes, I inhaled, unlike Bill (really, Bill, do you expect us to believe you?). Thinking that addiction was a joke, I had no concerns when I lit that first KOOL cigarette standing in the bathtub at a girlfriend's house. Well, it was the least likely place for us to get caught. You see, there was a window above the tub. Did I ever get dizzy. Talking about a buzz. NOT so "cool". Yet, we thought we were. Do you have the T-shirt? Confess.

As time rolled by my young life, I continued to enjoy the hazards of smoking. And, by the way, they were only about .35 a pack. Now I have to calculate a brain adjust when I see sale signs screaming, "$4.98 a pack". And we thought gasoline prices were costly?

Little did it compute in our adolescent minds that we were compromising our lives. We had bigger ills at that time. Drugs. And I don't mean legal. So when mescaline, LSD, speed, heroine, etc. were dancing around us, cigarettes seemed the least taxing.

How could we have known at that time that nicotine was more addictive than cocaine or heroine?

Too, growing up in VA, tobacco fields were everywhere. My own maternal grandfather grew and sold it; yet, he never took up the habit. Men courted their cigs at church as well as at any other formal situation. It was a part of our lives. There was no mental filter, pardon the pun. Although, I do remember my pastor saying, "Smoking might not send you to hell, but it will get you to Heaven a lot quicker!" I just thought that was a cute saying. I sported it a few times myself. Well, of course, after I quit.

More Research and Stats:

If you think non of this pertains to you and your world, read on.

  • In the United States, an estimated 25.9 million men (23.9 percent) and 20.7 million women (18.1 percent) are smokers.
  • It's highest among persons living below the poverty level (29.9 percent).
  • The more educated a person is, the less likely they are to smoke. GED=43.3% compared to 16 years of edu = 7.1% smoke.
  • "One billion people will die a smoker's death in the 21st century and the misery that precedes that final outcome is incalculable." (Koop, Flore, and Hollenback; 2008)function.
  • An estimated 440,000 Americans die each year from diseases caused by smoking.
  • Each day, nearly 6,000 children under 18 years of age start smoking; of these, nearly 2,000 will become regular smokers. That is almost 800,000 annually.
  • It is estimated that at least 4.5 million U.S. adolescents are cigarette smokers.
  • Approximately 90 percent of smokers begin smoking before the age of 21.
  • If current tobacco use patterns persist, an estimated 6.4 million children will die prematurely from a smoking-related disease.
  • According to a 2001 national survey of high school students, the overall prevalence of current cigarette use was 28 percent.
  • Nearly 20 percent of 12th graders smoke cigarettes daily.
  • Adolescents who smoke regularly can have as difficult of a time quitting as long-time smokers. (stats taken from Amer. Lung Assoc. site; also clk on adolescents for a great site).

Is it Ever Too Late to Butt Out?

Absolutely not. According to research:

  • After quitting within 20 minutes your heart rate drops.

  • After 12 hours your carbon monoxide levels normalize.

  • Two weeks-12 months your risk for heart attack drops and your lungs begin to heal.

  • One-9 months your shortness of breath begins to improve.

  • In 5 years your stroke risk is the same as a non-smoker's.

  • Research also shows that even after quitting the habit after 65 years of age, you reduce such risks as: emphysema, lung cancer, osteoporosis, hearing loss, cataracts, impotence, poor circulation, coronary heart disease, and Alzheimer's disease.

  • Any other benefits? Yes, your recovery from broken bones, surgery and illnesses is accelerated.

  • On the more personal side, your loved ones will thank you for taking better care of your life. They may even give you a few more kisses. Not to be offensive but many people say that there is nothing worse than kissing a person who's a smoker. And think of the second hand smoke you will be eliminating from your sphere of influence.

How I quit:

The fact is, most of you who smoke don't want to. I feel for you. Believe me, I do remember quitting cold. For me, that was the only way it was going to work. I had "tried" to only meet "Unsuccessful". However, I would be amiss if I didn't tell you I did have a motivator. My big brother. My big bro, Charles, who happened to be a minister. I was going to move in with him and his wife. No smoky there! Could I have sneaked around? Sure. But somehow, I knew this was my chance to rid myself of this evil, once and for all. I had too much respect for them to try and keep up the habit when they weren't looking.

Too, let me say quitting wasn't without clouds. For about five years, I picked up that "smoke" again and again. Thankfully, only in my dreams. Or I should say nightmares. Every encounter would wake me up in a sweat. For you see, I knew if I ever put another cigarette to my lips, that would be it. Bondage for the rest of my life. And that in and of itself kept me from stepping over the line! And, yes, for a few years even the smell of a cigarette would trigger the need for a fix.

These days? I haven't had nightmares about smoking in forever. Is it compelling when I encounter it face-to-face ? Yes. It compels me to make an exit.

So How Can YOU Butt Out?

The FDA has approved seven meds to aide the smoker in quitting. Are they without side-effects? That is doubtful. But in some cases, they may be lesser of the two evils. That's where you will have to do your own personal research. Too, you might want to check out your health care plan. Some offer accommodations to recovery. "Medicare Part D covers quit-tobacco counseling and prescription drugs. Every Medicare plan is required to cover at least one quit-tobacco medication." Koop, Flore, & Hollenback.

Also, there are free quitlines and free drugs to callers in some states. The free national tobacco quitline is 1-800-QUIT-NOW. Too, you can check www.smokefree.gov .

Personally, I would highly recommend going to a Whole Foods type market and explore natural options. Counseling is paramount. You will likely need to replace one habit for a productive habit. One lady began exercising in place of smoking. Another picked up the crochet hook to keep her hands busy. Find what fits you. Take it a baby step at a time if need be.

Or you might go for a more severe resolution. JUST QUIT. Please know, I'm not saying that's easy. It's not. It worked for me, but that doesn't mean it's applicable to everyone. Butting out is easier said than done;it's not as easy as its cracked up to be.

The first step is the desire to live longer. To be more healthy. To admit that it is an addiction. To admit you need a support system. To take responsibility for the addiction and begin to make necessary changes. You'll never want to butt in again!

Take a look at the cig cost, which by the way, does not include health cost issues.

Put a Cigarette Costs Calculator on your site!

Sources: AARP, Never Too Late by Koop, Flore, & Hollenback; U.S. Public Health Service's 2008 Clinical Practice Guideline; National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), 2005, National Center for Health Statistics; American Heart Association; American Lung Association.

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