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.
Editorial: Fear ignited effort to quit smoking