My Journey With Cigarettes
I have been an advocate for lung health, a Lung Health Ambassador (LHA), since my diagnosis of COPD. I believe every person with lung disease has the right to be treated with dignity and compassion.
Some healthcare professionals say we deserve what we got because we smoked. I can't entirely agree with this, and I feel strongly that the manufacturers of smoking products and physicians, in general, should hold their heads in shame for what they allowed to happen to us. We had a right to be informed.
As a child, I watched the commercials on TV that glorified not only smoking but also those who smoked. They were the famous, thinner, more intelligent, sexier people with the money, and we all yearned to be them.
Everyone from cowboys to models, there was a cigarette made especially for everyone. I started to mimic them by pretending to smoke a pen. That behavior was funny, or so my caregivers thought.
I was likely addicted to secondhand smoke from an early age. My parents smoked all their lives, even during pregnancy, and soon enough, as the kids turned 16, most took up the habit. Aunts and uncles, grandparents, and cousins...it seemed everyone smoked.
Smoking was a social pastime
Everyone except for my brother. He never put a cigarette to his lips and hated the smell of cigarettes. There were no accommodations made for him.
Everyone smoked in the house and, in those days, never thought of taking it outside or opening the windows. We got used to the smell of stale cigarettes that permeated our environments.
It was predominant in all homes. He had to put up and shut up about the smell.
I had two bouts of pneumonia before I was five years old, which meant two stays in the hospital. Diagnosed with bronchitis, I would cough all night, every night, incessantly.
I was often fatigued from poor sleep. There were no accommodations made for me either. I remember my mother sitting beside me in bed, waiting for the doctor and smoking away.
Picking up the habit early
These were the days that we were born and lived in. There was very little knowledge about the dangers of smoking back in the ’50s and ’60s.
Just look at any movie from those days. Everyone smoked. So, it was not a surprise that once I turned 15, I also took up that habit.
At first, I stole smokes from my mother. She never kept track of one or two smokes that were missing. I started slowly but increased to become a pack-per-day smoker for over 40 years.
I ignored my lung health for many years, as my addiction kept me smoking, and my mind told me that I could never live without cigarettes.
That continued until my lungs and heart became so compromised that I nearly died. I changed my life in a heartbeat; from that day to this, I have never looked back.
Today I love being a non-smoker and could never imagine putting another cigarette to my lips.
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