The Great American Smokeout and My Parents Battle to Quit
Cigarette smoking kills more than 480,000 people every year in the U.S., including around 41,000 deaths caused by exposure to secondhand smoke. Smoking costs the U.S. more than $300 billion a year including $170 billion in direct medical care for adults and $156 billion in lost productivity due to premature death and secondhand smoke exposure.
So why on earth would anyone want to smoke? Many people begin smoking as teens and the tobacco industry still spends billions of dollars marketing cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products every year. The American Cancer Society reports that 2 out of 3 smokers want to quit but few succeed without help.
The Great American Smokeout became a national event in 1977 and for many years on that date, my dad and mom would pay lip service to the event without ever really trying to quit.
My mom did quit smoking in her 70s after a particularly hideous bout of respiratory flu. But in her 80s she took it up again on what she referred to as a "part-time basis". She knew how awful it was for her scarred lungs and it infuriated me.
My dad quit smoking at 72 after he had a heart attack and stroke, went into a coma and landed in the hospital. When he woke up from that coma, not understanding exactly what had happened, with a tracheotomy tube in his throat, he was mouthing something.
I leaned in so he could see me through the tunnel vision he was suffering from and asked, "What do you want Daddy?". He mouthed the word "smoke". I answered back that he was in the hospital and he couldn't smoke here. He was a doctor and that he understood. But it made him angry.
That is how powerful nicotine is. Daddy began smoking as a child in Italy and just never stopped. Until it stopped him. After a long protracted and painful stay in the hospital, he finally passed away a couple of months later.
I hope the Great American Smokeout (November 15, 2018) helps those who desire to break that addiction, before it breaks them and their loved ones.