June 19, 2013
Written by Joe Pisani
Wednesday, 21 October 2009 09:04
Every day after dropping his wife off at the train station, a middle-aged man drives his Audi to the end of the parking lot, opens the trunk and pulls out a concealed pack of cigarettes.
It sure looks like something sinister is going on. In his hideaway far from the platform, he lights up, sits on the bumper, coughs a few times and then enjoys a good smoke.
I guess he’s not supposed to smoke in the car. He’s probably not supposed to smoke, period. Several minutes later — his morning ritual concluded and nicotine coursing through his veins — he speeds away, a happy man despite the respiratory problems.
Cigarette smokers are a hunted breed, by their families, by their doctors, by non-smokers and by their governor, who raised taxes $1 a pack, hoping to capture $100 million in revenue, cut health-care costs and strong-arm people into quitting.
In theory, the higher tax, which brings cigarettes to $7 a pack, is expected to dissuade 24,000 young people from starting and persuade 10,000 adults to stop. More than 4,700 people die every year in Connecticut as a result of smoking (the national toll is 467,000), and the medical bill is $1.63 billion for the state and $96 billion for the nation.
In Pueblo, Colo., which banned smoking in the workplace, the rate of hospitalizations for heart attacks declined 41 percent, and other communities have seen similar results.
Almost 20 percent of Americans — 45 million — are addicted to smoking. Quitting is never easy, and only 5 percent of those who try unaided are successful. Kicking the habit was probably the hardest thing I ever did, back in the days before the patch, hypnosis and the other gimmicks they’ve invented. Needless to say, I was one miserable SOB for a long time.
My mother complained because the house stunk worse than the corner bar. I had stained fingers and yellow teeth, and my clothes smelled as if I’d spent the day strolling through smoldering debris at the town dump. Then, there was my morning hacking, which woke up the family at the crack of dawn. At 25, I was on the way out.
Despite the misery, I loved to smoke. I smoked in the newsroom, I smoked in the bedroom, I smoked in the bathroom, I smoked in the barroom. I smoked with my morning coffee, I smoked with my Scotch and soda, I smoked when I was stressed out, and I smoked when I was relaxing.
I smoked two-and-a-half packs a day. Even though my kids never saw a cigarette dangling from my lips, two of them are smokers. For once, I was a power of example, but nobody followed it. Most young people think they’re invincible and scoff at the risks associated with smoking — including lung cancer, heart disease and respiratory ailments — largely because they’re more concerned with looking cool and fitting in. What they don’t realize is smokers are a dying breed … in more ways than one. And it’s a painful death.
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