"With a lung capacity now at 25% of normal, many things I used to enjoy doing are totally out of the question! Hunting and fishing, for example. Would you want to drag an Oxygen bottle every where you go? What if you run out? If I were to catch a fish, I couldn't reel it in; there's not enough air."

Enslaved to Cigarettes

by Lee Ruark   


Teen Tobacco Use
About six weeks before my twelfth birthday I took up the grown-up habit of smoking. After all, my Father smoked, the neighbor smoked. It was on the TV, and it was so sophisticated.
     I always had a problem with weight and one of my neighbors said he and his wife had lost 20 pounds, just by smoking! If you have been called 'Tubby" or "Crisco Kid," you take any chance to try to get rid of the problem. I did lose some weight when I started, and in a short while my body was addicted to nicotine. When you are 12, you think you are bullet proof, period. I was expelled from school in the seventh grade for having cigarettes in my shirt pocket. My Father was really mad. He said if he caught me with cigarettes again, I would really catch it!
     I continued to smoke, but managed to keep the secret from him. At least he never said anything else about it. You see, HE smoked too! Even when had a skin cancer removed from his lower lip, I didn't make the connection with smoking until later years. 
     I quit school and joined the Army, still bulletproof. I carried nothing from home to basic at Ft. Jackson, SC but my Bermuda shorts, a T-shirt, and shower sandals -- and cigarettes. I froze my tail off. The Army didn't permit sickness. The only reason you wanted to go to the doctor was to keep from working, they said. They had a name for that, Dereliction of Duty. You could go to jail for less! 
     I carried the cold from Columbia to Ft. Sill, Okla. One morning I passed out in ranks and was taken to the hospital with pneumonia. That's when most of my lung problems started. I continued to smoke, and they even gave us cigarettes in our "C" rations (food). We got 4 smokes, three times a day. Smokes on base were $1.90 per carton. Through the years I probably averaged 2 packs a day. 
     About the time I became 40, I started noticing my breath was really beginning to suffer. I blamed it at first on altitude. I mean, I am bulletproof, right? Slowly I became aware that all wasn't well, I was "over the hill" and things were not all they seemed. I drove over the road from coast to coast almost continuously from the time I separated from the service until December of 1991. I was on the way home, sick. Christmas was less than a week away when I passed out at the wheel! Some one real Special was driving because when I came to, I was parked straight and safely on the shoulder of the road. Well, you don't have to hit me over the head! I took the truck to the depot and cleaned my stuff out.
     I was in the hospital for a week the first time and still was sick for months. I continued to smoke, until February 28, 1999. The doctors at the VA hospital have cussed me, pleaded with me -- and my family also -- and I just could not throw those cigarettes away. I tried at least 6 times to quit. Talked with every doctor I saw, and they all said the same thing:
     "You are addicted to the MOST HAZARDOUS DRUG KNOWN TO MAN!" 
     Well, I think they were right, I would tremble, shake, go completely out of control for a cigarette. The family put up with some real terrible times because of my ADDICTION over the years. I think they were glad to see the chimney leave.
     I have been diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Congestive Heart Failure, Diabetes, Degenerative Bone Disease, Hypertension, Kidney Problems, Liver Damage. The last two are from the hypertension damage, I think. The diabetes is effecting my nerves in my feet and legs mostly but there are times when my hands are numb. too. You see, I'm 58 years old! Much to soon for this old body to wear out. The Doctors tell me there is a VERY great chance of blindness, loss of limbs, and I don't want to hear about it. I should have a long life left, but I don't think it is at all possible.
Believe it or not, it's a big deal walking 15 steps when you have LUNG CAPACITY that is 25% of normal. I think the lack of Oxygen has effected my brain function, also, because the things I used to do in my head I have to write down now.
     With a lung capacity now at 25% of normal, many things I used to enjoy doing are totally out of the question! Hunting and fishing, for example. Would you want to drag an Oxygen bottle every where you go? What if you run out? If I were to catch a fish, I couldn't reel it in; there's not enough air.
     It is my most fervent hope that when this is read by who ever if they are contemplating becoming smokers, they DO NOT! It isn't worth it. YOU ARE PAYING OTHER PEOPLE FOR THE MATERIALS TO KILL YOURSELF! SMOKING IS VERY SNEAKY. YOU DO NOT REALIZE THE DAMAGE UNTIL IT'S TOO LATE. THE DAMAGE IS NOT REVERSIBLE. PLEASE, DO NOT SMOKE. Not for me but FOR YOURSELF AND LOVED ONES.

Of adolescents who have smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime,  most report that they would like to quit, but are not able to do so.

Tobacco use primarily begins in early adolescence, typically by age 16;
almost all first use occurs before the time of high school graduation.

430,700 Americans die each year of smoking-related diseases.

Smoking is responsible for one in five US deaths and costs the US at least $97.2 billion each year in health care costs and lost productivity.

Each day, more than 4,800 teens smoke their first cigarette. Almost 2,000 of these will become regular smokers - that's 720,000 annually. One-third of these children smokers will eventually die of smoking-related illnesses.

At least 4.5 million adolescents are current smokers.

1,226,000 Americans under age 18 became daily smokers in 1996.

Among 12th graders in 1998, 22.4% smoked cigarettes daily.

According to a 1997 national survey of high school students, the overall prevalence of current cigarette use and frequent cigarette use were 36.4 % and 16.7 %, respectively.

A 1997 survey reported that current cigar use among high school students was 22 percent.

Cigarette smoking during childhood and adolescence produces significant
health problems among young people: cough and phlegm production, an increase in the number and severity of respiratory illnesses, decreased  physical fitness, an unfavorable lipid profile, and potential retardation in  the rate of lung growth and the level of maximum lung function.

People who begin smoking at an early age are more likely to develop severe levels of nicotine addiction than those who start at a later age.

Source: American Lung Asso.
Fact Sheet
July 1999 Update

Discouraging youngsters
 from smoking

"With research showing that most young people begin smoking by age 13, it's vital to reach them before they enter high school. If we give young people truthful information about what tobacco does to our appearance and health and how it's immediately addictive, we can help them overcome pressure from peers and tobacco advertising."

John R. Garrison, CEO
American Lung Association

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