My “smoking” affair

August 22nd, 2022 by Ken

 I smoked my first cigarette at the age of 11.  My brother and I stole one from mom’s purse.  We had a hard time lighting it, because neither of us knew exactly how to start, but we succeeded although we coughed and hacked our way through.

I started smoking on a regular basis in my early teens.  Most of the boys we hung out with smoked.  It was usually only one or two a day, but we did it pretty much every day  As time progressed I began smoking more.  My first cigarettes I managed to obtain from a store were Menthol.  It made the smoke going down my throat more “refreshing.”

We had no option.  Our black and white television screen was filled with advertisements of movie stars, doctors and athletes, all smoking.

When I joined the army at 17, my smoking accelerated.  Cigarettes were only 25 cents a pack, and it seemed like everyone was doing it.  We had “cigarette” breaks from training.  The barracks had “Butt cans.”  These were gallon cans, painted red and filled with water, in which we extinguished our cigarette butts. We had weekly “Butt Patrols” where everyone lined up and  cleaned up any cigarette butts thrown on the ground.

The army PX didn’t have a great choice in brands of cigarettes and I began smoking Camel Straights, without a filter.  We even had cigarettes included in our C Rations during training.

But, it wasn’t until I began working in my civilian job that I became hooked.  I was working as a reporter for a weekly newspaper.  The day was 24 hours long.  Cigarettes and coffee were the motivation it took to keep alert and to keep going.  There were times when I would come back from a city council meeting and sit down to start writing a story.  “This is a two cigarette story” I would say, meaning it would take concentration and time to get it done.  it wasn’t long before two packs of cigarettes and 20 cups of coffee (Camels straight and coffee black.) became the standard of the day.

This routine went on for years, even after I had left the newspaper business.  Coffee and cigarettes were my standard.  When I began to experience stomach problems, my doctor recommended that I switch to decaf coffee.  I did.  I tried to quit smoking often.  Sometimes I was able to get along without a cigarette for a day or two, but always went back.  I switched to filtered cigarettes with the expectation that it would decrease the need.  It didn’t.

What would take me off my addiction?

A woman.

When I met the woman who is now my wife, she didn’t like smokers, but she tolerated me – – to  point.   I couldn’t smoke when I was at her home, and to make it even more difficult, i couldn’t smoke at my house when she was going to be there.

When we decided to get married, I knew it was going to be a struggle.  So, I had no choice.  I quit smoking.

It’s now been 32 years since I last had a cigarette.  I estimated that in total, I probably smoked for about the same number of years.

Has smoking for that long had an impact on my quality of life.  My new doctor seems to think so.



Posted in The Real News

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