I might as well quit reading and listening to the news. By definition, news is supposed to be fresh, interesting and important. Trouble is, when you reach my stage in life, news tends to remind me of something that happened long ago. As the fellow said, "There isn't anything new under the sun."
The other day I learned that the Food and Drug Administration had approved a drug that will help people quit smoking. It said that of people who use it, about fifty per cent succeed in kicking the habit. The account went on to say that people who try to quit smoking without any aid other than will power have a success rate of about five percent. Advertisement I don't know how they come up with these statistics, but it took me back many years. When I was in college, I smoked a pipe. I didn't particularly enjoy it, but I thought it made me look cool, a "college man" whatever that was supposed to be. Then I got my first newspaper job in Bloomington, Ill., and sat next to a guy who was to become my best friend at the office. His name was Harold Liston and like many of my friends, he is no longer with us. Liston was a cigarette smoker. While I was taking a tobacco pouch from my pocket, filling a pipe, tamping the tobacco down and getting it lighted after several tries with matches, Liston would flip a cigarette out of a pack, light up and be enjoying a smoke while I was struggling to keep the tobacco burning in my pipe. "This is nuts," I thought to myself, and gradually decided to give up the pipe and turn to cigarettes. I started by smoking O.P.'s. That stands for Other People's. Yes, I became one of those most annoying of cigarette smokers, someone who cadged smokes off of friends because he isn't sure yet whether he wanted to take up the habit on a permanent basis. After getting icy stares and unpleasant remarks, I decided I had better start buying my own. In those days you could get a pack of cigarettes for 10 or 15 cents a pack. I was making five dollars a day, so everything was relative. But I was hooked and soon got up to almost two packs a day. Not only did I enjoy it, but again, it made me feel "cool." After all, half the movie stars in those days smoked cigarettes, using them as props. If it was good enough for Humphrey Bogart and William Powell, who was I to shun smoking? In the last days of using the habit, I switched to Kools. These were the ones with a mentholated taste and were shunned by many smokers as too effeminate. The Marlboro Man would have been horrified if anyone offered him a Kool. When we moved to St. Louis in 1947, I was quite a smoker, as were many of my friends. Why when I met Friend Wife, she did some smoking, but never inhaled. Like many young women at the time, smoking was supposed to be equated with sex appeal, I guess. Well, I finally decided to quit, not for moral, but for health reasons. I began to experience chest pains, dizziness and other symptoms in the morning and became frightened. But it wasn't easy. Like Mark Twain said, quitting smoking was easy, he had done it hundreds of times. I would get through the day without a cigarette, then about 9 o'clock in the evening I would jump in the car, rush to the nearest convenience store, buy a pack of cigarettes, tear it open, and take a satisfying pull on one of the coffin nails. I went through this routine for a long time. I drove our son Lynn back to school after a Christmas break, and each of us bought a pack of cigarettes when we left home. His school, Millikin University, is in Decatur, Ill., not a very long trip. By the time I got home, I had four cigarettes left, and felt short of breath. It was probably all psychological. As indicated earlier, I am a cheap guy, so I couldn't throw those four away. No, I smoked them, then said "that was it." Somehow, I must have slipped into those five percent who quit on their own, because I haven't had another cigarette since. Oh, I missed them for awhile, especially after a meal or in the company of friends who were smoking. Finally the urge disappeared and the thought of trying a smoke today makes me a bit ill. Let me hasten to add, I have no quarrel with people who smoke. I did it much too long myself to pass judgment. I understand a pack today costs about four bucks. Even if I wanted to smoke again, that is way to much for a cheap guy. Jim Fox, a retired newspaperman who lives in Affton, writes a weekly column for the Journals.
Archive for September, 2006
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health recently issued a report based on data from 1998 to 2004 that concluded "the amount of nicotine that is actually delivered to the smoker's lungs has increased significantly." The MDPH report cites Philip Morris USA and its Marlboro brand.
The principal reason the MDPH report seems to show an upward trend for Marlboro is because it did not include the earliest reported data from 1997 and the most recent reported data from November 2005. We believe that when one looks at the Marlboro data from all the years reported to the MDPH (1997 through 2005), there are variations in nicotine yields, both up and down, in different brand packings, but there is no trend in nicotine yields, up or down.
For example, the nicotine yield measured in Marlboro Lights King Size Box, the largest selling cigarette brand packing in the country, went up from 1997 to 1998, down in 1999, up in 2000, down in 2001, up in 2002, down in 2003, up in 2004 and down in 2005. The annual variability, both up and down, ranged from 0.01 to 0.11 milligrams of nicotine. These year-to-year variations occur because of the normal processes of growing tobacco and manufacturing cigarettes.
The MDPH report also links the nicotine measured by a smoking machine to nicotine "delivered to the smoker." Other public health authorities have said one should not link machine smoking to human smoking. For example, the World Health Organization Study Group on Tobacco Regulation concluded that "machine testing protocols are not likely to provide a valid basis for predicting health effects or for making claims about health effects because such protocols do not predict how the products will be used by individuals or at the population level."
We do not believe that the MDPH's conclusions about the trends in nicotine yields for Marlboro are supported by the 1997 through 2005 data. Even so, there are some fundamental conclusions that Philip Morris USA and the MDPH seem to share: Cigarette smoking is addictive, cigarette smoking causes disease and death, and comprehensive federal Food and Drug Administration regulation of the tobacco industry would be good public health policy.
Doctors and health professionals voiced support for a countywide smoking ordinance Monday night, while restaurateurs, bartenders and smokers told Allen County commissioners to “butt out.” There were no real surprises but lots of passion at a packed public hearing in the City-County Building that lasted more than two hours. Those who support the proposed ordinance cited health studies linking secondhand smoke to illness. Those who are opposed cited economic concerns and advocated free enterprise and freedom of choice.
At issue is a smoking ordinance proposed by the commissioners that would be much stricter than the one now in effect in the city of Fort Wayne. The proposed ordinance would ban smoking in bars, restaurants and most public places countywide, with the exception of private clubs and some hotel rooms. Cities and towns within Allen County, including Fort Wayne, could opt out — or write even more restrictive ordinances.
Fort Wayne’s current ordinance requires restaurants to provide a separate, fully enclosed room for smokers. Many restaurants converted sections of their facilities for smokers several years ago. The proposed ordinance would render those conversions useless, as restaurants would be required to be completely smoke-free.
As the city’s ordinance stands now, patrons are still allowed to smoke in bars. Under the proposed ordinance, all bars in Allen County would have to be smoke-free. Many of the people who would have been appalled at the city’s ordinance 10 years ago were begging the commissioners Monday night to adopt an ordinance similar to the city’s.
“We feel that the city’s ban was a fair compromise,” said Don Marquardt.
Debbie Pieri, who has been with Piere’s Entertainment Center since its inception, came to the podium with an American flag and told commissioners that businesses such as hers felt as if they were fighting for freedom against their own local government.
Todd Smith, general manager at Piere’s, asked commissioners not to mess with the bars. “The nightlife in this town is all we have left.”
Mona Butler, who with her husband owns Showgirl I, expressed fear the smoking ordinance would cause a loss in revenue for all nightclub owners.
Mary Armstrong said the ordinance reminds her of communist Russia.
Paul Meridith, who is in the restaurant business, fears any smoking ban would drive patrons out of Allen County. He also noted that people go to bars of their own volition, saying, “When you walk into a smoking environment, you are voluntarily jeopardizing your health.”
Both Sam and Bud Hall, owners of Hall’s Restaurants, spoke against the ordinance. Bud Hall asked the commissioners to align the ordinance with the city’s.
Bob Carney, who owns Billy’s Downtown Zulu restaurant and gets a lot of business from Ohio, said, “I think I should have the choice to say whether or not people can smoke in my building.”
On the side supporting the ordinance were two Fort Wayne City Council members, John Crawford and Tom Hayhurst. Crawford is an oncologist; Hayhurst is a retired pulmonologist. Both spoke about how much more is known today about the effects of secondhand smoke. Hayhurst said in the early years of his practice, children would come in with respiratory illnesses, the causes of which were unknown. Today, those illnesses are often attributed to exposure to secondhand smoke, he said.
Bruce Hetrick, whose wife’s death from cancer was attributed to secondhand smoke, noted that “government has always restricted our rights when they interfere with someone else’s.”
Rita Bubb, a registered nurse, is a lung-cancer survivor who spoke in favor of the ordinance. “I had never been a smoker, but for most of my life, I had been around secondhand smoke.”
A dental hygienist, Nancy Mann, spoke of the periodontal disease associated with smoking. Several speakers associated with public-health groups referenced a recent report by the surgeon general that concluded there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.
Jonathan Ray, president of the Urban League, said while he supports personal choice, secondhand smoke “infringes on other people. That’s the bottom line.”
Many in the audience sported stickers saying they were against the ordinance. Applause, whistling and shouts of approval were heard after particularly impassioned speakers.
The three commissioners will take the testimony under advisement as they decide whether to modify, accept or reject the ordinance.
When Sandy Kellerman started smoking, she was 17 years old. She didn't need a reason to start. In fact, she had no reason not to. "Every adult I knew smoked," she said. Movie stars made smoking look glamorous and celebrities starred in cigarette ads. Many of those celebrities have since died of cancer. But 50 years ago, most people in Kellerman's circle of family and friends didn't think of smoking as a serious health hazard.
"I found an old McCall's magazine in an antique store," Kellerman, a Hot Springs Village resident, said. "One advertisement said that doctors recommended Camels for soothing the nerves. Another one said the same thing about Pall Malls."
Besides, smoking could come in handy, particularly on dates.
"When you needed an excuse to break up the clench, you could just say, 'Oh, I need a cigarette,'" she said with a laugh.
But through the years, smoking lost its charm, for society in general and for Kellerman personally. She tried to quit several times and eventually became a "closet smoker" — smoking about a pack a day after telling her grown children, her mother and other family members that she had kicked the habit.
Then in June 2005, her husband, a fellow smoker, was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). He had to quit, and his wife wasn't about to expose him to second-hand smoke. Besides, she was tired of living a lie, so to speak.
So at age 67, she did what she'd started out to do more than once. She quit smoking in August 2005 and doesn't plan on lighting up again.
"I still have flashes of wanting a cigarette, but it wasn't as hard this time. I had a lot more incentive," she said. "No way was I going to smoke around my husband."
To get past the physical part of her addiction, Kellerman used a nicotine patch. "I ignored the recommended timeline," she said. "When I started forgetting to use the patch, I just stopped."
Breaking the psychological part of the smoking habit can be even more difficult for longtime smokers. When the going got rough, Kellerman found herself repeating the words of advice from a friend, "The urge to smoke will leave whether you have a cigarette or not."
"That helped me more than anything, I think," she said.
To anyone who thinks it's not worth quitting after age 65, Kellerman says, think again.
"People with any sense are going to be afraid of what they're doing to their health by smoking," she said. "And it was awkward to be the only couple who had to leave a concert and go outside to smoke."
She's also saving money and setting a good example for her loved ones — without having to lie. And she feels better about herself.
"I smell better, my clothes smell better, my house smells better and I no longer get that 'stupid' feeling that you get when you light up," she said. And that feels good at any age.
If you would like some help to quit smoking, you may attend a four-part series of discussions to be held at Rutland Regional Medical Center on Sept. 12, 19, 26, and Oct. 3, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in Room 6. Call 747-3768 for more information or to register.