By Nathan, Pure Matters
I came to smoking fashionably late, in my early 30s. Call me a late bloomer, but after hanging out with chain smokers for most of high school, college, and grad school, it just happened. I certainly was old enough to know better. I jokingly blame it on my girlfriend at the time who loved late nights, Marlboro Lights, and good whiskey. That relationship didn’t last, but my smoking habit did.
In the months of heartbreak that followed, cigarettes made sense. Not because of their James Dean mystique. More because I was emotionally suffering and somehow it made sense that my body suffered as well. Finishing a pack felt like a challenge.
Yet, as I started to get more focused on the things that now define me -- biking, skiing, climbing, and talking myself into stunts like hiking the 42-mile stretch of the Maryland section of the Appalachian Trail, the raspy lungs and shortness of breath became noticeable. Still, in the twisted logic of addiction (a word I still can’t fully embrace), it was okay precisely because I was running, hitting the gym, going backpacking, skiing, and generally leading an active life. Cigarettes became the reward for a job well done. When bars banned smoking, going outside for a cigarette became a well-earned break with like-minded patrons, where conversations swerved between the absurdly humorous to the stoically sober.
Then a shift came about six months ago. I was with my sister in our apartment building, and the hallway reeked of cigarette smoke (this time, not from my bad habit). She commented that my two-year-old niece had said, at one point, that the smell -- the stench of slate cigarette smoke -- was what my apartment smelled like. My niece didn’t care, of course. Youth is refreshingly devoid of passing judgment. But I realized that the association my niece had of me was not the impression I wanted her to have of her uncle.
So, I quit. Cold turkey. It wasn’t easy -- and, truthfully, it still isn’t. Occasional slides still occur, but as the cliché goes, I take it one day at a time, and let my increased physical performance reinforce the simple logic of the decision.
In truth, cigarettes are the most nefarious of narcotics -- the first one you have in your life (or after a long break) might give you a head rush. But mostly you’re just scratching an itch while poisoning your body and cursing your wardrobe in one of man’s more offensive odors. I can think of few other bad habits that offer so little reward -- ask any smoker, and they’ll likely agree.
Pure Matters Tip of the Day: November’s National Lung Cancer Awareness month is an opportunity to learn more about diseases caused by smoking. The American Lung Association notes that each year “over 392,000 people die from tobacco-caused disease, making it the leading cause of preventable death. Another 50,000 people die from exposure to secondhand smoke.” That number includes the more than 150,000 Americans who die from lung cancer each year. Quitting smoking is no easy task and for that it’s helpful to use resources like family members, friends, and colleagues for support in breaking the habit.