It's absolutely none of my business if you smoke. But I'm still offering some words of advice.
My relative who smoked the longest died the earliest. Years of coughing fits, then years of trundling an oxygen canister around everywhere he went. They say emphysema, which is what he had, is like trying to breathe through a straw.
The ex-smokers I know are extremely glad they quit. Glad to be free from the constant need to light up again, free from the smell and the coughing, free from the expense.
I'm so glad that you wrote that letter to Luc. As a former smoker, I know how difficult it was for me to quit, and in the context of a society that accepts and to some extent approves the habit, it must be even more difficult. And your observation that each of us have our own histories, and out own particular paths to healthy life is quite on point., Still I know where you're coming from: I've traveled mostly in Italy, France, Spain and Ireland, whee social acceptance of smoking has declined somewhat. But only somewhat.
My father was an MD, specialized in internal medicine and ultimately, cardiology. Sadly, he continued to smoke. He had a heart attack at age 52, followed by quadruple bypass. Eleven years later, at age 63, he died at Pittsburgh's Presbyterian Hospital, waiting of a heart transplant that never became available. The irony is overwhleming sometimes.
So don't apologize too much for your advice to young people. Your concern for Luc is genuine, and your letter to him reflects that. And it sure resopnted with me. Thank you.
I think this is great you are doing this. You never know who you might save. I’m 53 and haven’t smoke in about 31 years. The first thing I did to quit was have a bet with my boyfriend that I would pay him $1000 dollars (which for a 22 year old in 1991 was a LOT of money). I got this idea from my dad. It had worked for him. But that was still an external motivator that worked in the moment. Like is this cigarette worth $1000. But I hadn’t committed in my heart. I still like smoking. The thing I credit with really saving my life is I was taking classes after college at a local college and a woman had posted flyers with a picture of her teenage son at the end of his life horribly swollen with cancer (he used chewing tobacco) and begged people to give it up. Smoking is not chewing tobacco but that photo has never left me and it also chipped into my youthful denial… who cares if I die at 62 I’ll be old then. Unbelievable to me now, but I remember thinking this. But this photo showed me I could die a horrible death now. I’ve never had another cigarette. I wonder who that woman was and I know she certainly doesn’t know that she saved my life.
Michael, thanks for a good piece. As I write this we are at my in-laws house because my mother-in-law is in the hospital due to COPD/emphysema. She has it due to decades of smoking. She said she started when she was 13! Luckily, she quit about 12 years ago, but she didn't dodge the COPD bullet. My husband's father also smoked for decades and quit when his wife did and he has other medical issues but not any lung-related. I hope that Luc can find the power to quit and I'm glad to hear other friends of yours have quit.
Although the situation is the US seems dire at the moment I do take heart that smoking has become taboo for many people.
Thanks, again for your article. It hit home with me.
Thank you for writing these thoughtful words to Luc. I hope that one day he will stop smoking. As many of our age, I grew up with parents who smoked--two to three packs of Winston Reds a day, each. I know that my chances of developing lung cancer are much higher having spent years breathing in cigarette smoke.
When I got my first apartment at 19, I remember thinking something was so different and realizing that the air was free of the stench of cigarettes. In all these years, I have never permitted anyone to smoke inside my home. (My mother didn't appreciate my boundary, but my father's response was that it was my home, so my rules.)
My father died at 68 from a stroke, and my mother died at 66 a year and a half later from lung cancer that metastasized into brain caner, but not before suffering a life-changing, debilitating stroke at 58.--caused, no doubt, from smoking.
Like you, I don't want to see others suffer from the effects of smoking, so I have told my students who smoked my stories of growing up with cigarettes and asked them to consider quitting. All we can do is share our stories, show our concern, and hope for the best. It helps when folks know we are speaking from compassion and concern, not judgment.
I love this. I think it's vital to share such kind words that you share with smokers. When we care about someone, we share with kindness, from our heart.
You are not crossing the line. Your message to Luc was stated very well as was his response. I was a heavy smoker (2pk day) for over 40 years but stopped completely 14yrs ago (thank god for Paxil, it worked!) But now I have COPD and emphysema and, like your mother, walking up & down stairs is a labor. I can no longer mow my lawn. But I do feel better now. And so it goes. Keep your letter on file and use it when you can! Best wishes - Bob Olson from Indianapolis IN
Lovely post and very nice of you to advise Luc and equally good of him to take it in the right spirit. Question, have the governments done their bit in these European countries to put measures in place such as “public smoking bans” etc? When my wife and I vacationed in Italy in 2015 we didn’t see many restrictions. I understand restrictions are not the answer but guidelines and messaging helps reinforce health concerns. Wonder if you found any of these countries you mentioned lacking in that regard?
How did USA curb smoking so broadly I wonder? In India, where I was born, it has become better and controlled although there are still a lot more smokers than here in America. Public smoking restrictions and fines helped some. Asia is not any better compared to Eurpore, although Singapore is strict against this and it was evident in their clean city, while their neighbors in Malaysia don’t seem to care. When we travelled to Singapore and Malaysia in 2018, we cut our trip short in Kuala Lumpur just coz of what I recall a “smoking pandemic” of sorts.
Great post, fascinating stuff on how countries and cultures (which I focus my writing on) are different.
Because the coffee klatsch was at my house every morning when I was growing up, I probably smoked two packs a day through second-hand smoke by the time I went to kindergarten. All of those women who didn't work outside the home, including my mom, gathered in our kitchen to drink coffee, gossip, and smoke cigarettes while the husbands were at work. I remember that one day my mom read in the newspaper that smoking causes cancer, so she put out her cigarette and never smoked again. My dad, however, continued with his Lucky Strikes, and that smoking eventually killed him. I think your words to your smoker friends are kind and well-chosen.
You've Saved more than One Life. Overstep! Love Your Style!
Sounds like you care.
IMO, you did the right thing and in the right way. You showed you cared and that you respected him no matter what he chose. Imagine a world where no one cared enough to warn someone else about what they were headed for. None of us are all knowing and I am grateful for friends who have steered me in the right direction from time to time.
I’m tossed on this one. I think the letter you wrote and the way you worded it served a greater purpose and hopefully, for your friend, will save him from future years of suffering.
As a general practice I don’t practice advising people what they should do to “save their lives” or other advice that would result in a better outcome for them. There are some people with strong religious beliefs that use “salvation” as en excuse to tell you you need to change your ways or you will be damned to eternal suffering. Even though I don’t believe this, they do. The rational for giving one their godly advice is to “save someone’s life”
My mother also died a horribly slow death due to her lifetime of smoking. She was diagnosed with COPD and used oxygen tanks to be able to breathe. There were many awful incidents but the most traumatizing to me were the times when she thought the oxygen tank wasn't working (it always was working) and would devolve into these horrible panic attacks with sweating and heaving for her breath. She spent the last years feeling like she was suffocating to death. It was almost a blessing when she has a cardiac event and went into a coma. That was the most at peace she had been for decades. My father, a non smoker, is alive and kicking at 95
This is so good, Michael. I hope it gets Luc to quit along with his friends who probably smoke too. I too had parents who smoked. My father had bladder cancer, later mouth and tongue cancer. Mother had ovarian cancer preceded by a stroke. All these horrific stories should make anyone quit smoking. I also was a smoker but quit around 8 or 9 years ago. Thanks for this.