In 1971 in Randolph, Mass., a fellow named Arthur P. Mulberry was trying to generate donations for a local high school fund raiser. He suggested folks not smoke any cigarettes for a period of twenty four hours. They could figure how much money it had saved them and donate that money to the high school. I'm sure that the attraction of supporting a worthwhile cause helped the fund drive but a wave of enthusiasm to stop smoking did not occur. When the smoke cleared, if I may, the idea of a stop smoking day had been born.
The next mention of smoking abstinence happened in 1974. In Monticello, Minn., a movement sponsored by Lynn R. Smith of the "Monticello times" promoted a No Smoke Day. He called it "D-Day" - D for desist, I guess. It came and it went. Still no tsunami of public support.
On Nov. 18, 1976, the California Division of the American Cancer Society got one million smokers to quit smoking for one day. I don't know who counted but try to stay with me on this. That has been credited with the beginning of the Nov. 18th Great American Smoke Out. Take note, Nov. 18th is today!
We make jokes and snide remarks regarding smoking casually referring to cigarettes as "coffin nails." They say everyone has to die of something. Then somebody changes the subject. If their brain is working at all they may be in denial but, deep down, they have to realize that they're just whistling past the graveyard. All of us are gonna die someday some way. Lemme give you a hint. Dying is not the worst of it. Consider the way many smokers are going to go.
I've heard that tobacco companies will be required to have a picture of a smoker on each pack of cigarettes. Do you remember that Marlboro cigarettes Cowboy? a handsome fella astride his faithful horse puffing on a cigarette? The latest picture of him would be after cancer got him and he fell off his horse. That's one of the expectations that come with a cigarette. I doubt any cigarette companies are going to use that picture in their ads.
I confess that I am a former smoker. There's nothing worse than a reformed anything who insists on "preaching to the unwashed multitude." I'm going to do it anyway. Here's how I came to quit. I had been teaching a doctor, a radiologist how to fly. After a debriefing I lit up a cigarette. My student looked at me and asked, "Do you know what you're doing to yourself with that cigarette?" He went on to explain in graphic detail how that nicotine and smoke was slowly plugging the tiny alveoli sacks responsible for transferring oxygen from my lungs to my bloodstream.
That lack of oxygen in t6he blood would cause shortness of breath. The heart must work harder to pump more anemic blood to compensate for the shortage of oxygen. The lung tissue is irritated as plugged alveoli slowly but steadily strangles a person's ability to function. Maybe you've seen folks making their way around pulling an oxygen bottle. That's not a fashion statement. And there's always the probability of cancer. An old smoker can very well hang on for a long time wheezing and struggling with a quality of life that's, well, it's not living, it's existing. They're a burden on their children, on friends, on relatives, maybe on complete strangers (in some government sponsored program) to provide even basic care. But they go on - I was going to say living but, on second thought, existing is probably the more appropriate term.
There are a few who never seem to have trouble - "seem" is the catch phrase there. They pace themselves, climb stairs more slowly if at all, and shape their life style around their impairment. Maybe they've cheated cancer but they're not scot-free. Can you smokers see what's ahead of you?
Yes, I quit the day that radiologist explained it to me. I threw a half pack of Pall Malls into a trash can. I had problems with my weight. I chewed a lot of gum. But I beat both of those problems too. My wife had to put up with me but she must have loved me. That's what it took. And without nicotine patches or pills or potions marketers are peddling today, without any of it! So today is the Great American Smokeout! How about quitting for good? If I could do it, so can you. Please?
Editors note: Ben Mukkala is a local author whose several books on life and living are available in bookstores and gift shops or through his website, www.benmukkala.com. You can contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.