The Robber

~ Patricia Gratton

I was robbed. Being robbed doesn't always mean someone with a mask over his head took money or jewels from you. This someone was something, an object, and it was masked for a long time. It robbed people of their children, grandchildren, health, lifestyle and their life. The robber is a cigarette.

For years, a cigarette was a symbol of sophistication. Magazine articles pictured famous people holding a cigarette; movie scenes were awash in smoke. Young people couldn't wait to light up thinking a cigarette made them look mature. Unknowingly, the stage was being set for a robbery.

For years no one would believe smoking was dangerous to their health, even though an oblong block on a cigarette package contained the message. They said, "Why should I give up smoking?" "Smoking calms me down; it's relaxing." "I love to smoke when I have my coffee in the morning." "I'll gain weight if I try to quit smoking." You have heard all of the above statements, I'm sure. I know I have, and, with each puff inhaled, I was being robbed of someone I loved.

My father was a smoker for many, many years. He began as a young boy, and as a serviceman in the Army during WWII, cigarettes were cavalierly tucked into his duffle bag. Later on, cigarettes were sent to him and given to him as gifts during the Christmas holidays from well-intentioned customers, friends and relatives. Cigarettes were flippantly called "cancer sticks". After all the years of smoking, cancer did not take my father's life. He died of a massive coronary at fifty-two years old. The robber was at work; he stole my Dad.

I would watch my mother sit at the table in the morning, pour a cup of coffee and light up a cigarette. Within reach was an ashtray full of smashed butts left over from the night before. After Dad died, I begged her to stop smoking. I related the health reasons and even told her I didn't like the smell of smoke. She continued to smoke until the day an x-ray showed a small tumor on her lungs. She quit smoking then. However, she quit smoking too late and died of lung cancer at the age of sixty-two. The robber was at work again, he stole my Mom.

My husband smoked at an early age, too. Probably for some of the same reasons (or should I say excuses) that were noted above. When I asked him why he didn't quit smoking, he'd say, "I'll quit when I want to quit. You have to want to quit smoking to give them up." He continued smoking even after he was diagnosed with heart disease at the tender age of thirty-six. After smoking for approximately fifty years, he quit "cold turkey" on the day he was admitted to surgery for prostate cancer. My husband's life was saved, but the robber stole not only his quality of life, but, as his partner, mine, too.

Other life-threatening problems occur due to smoking. To name a few, unborn babies weigh less than babies whose mothers do not smoke. Lung problems such as asthma and emphysema, and heart and vascular disease are problems noted by doctors whose patients smoked the better part of their life.

If smoking was so beneficial to your body, doctors would entice you to pick up the habit. Instead, "Do you smoke?" Is almost the first question doctors ask during an examination. One doctor, who was seeing my husband for the first time asked if he smoked. When my husband said he had given it up, the doctor said, "Good." Since he was a heart specialist, and my husband was in heart failure at the time, I asked what he would say if my husband said he was a smoker. Without any hesitation, the doctor said, "I would tell him to leave. Why should I waste my time trying to heal someone who doesn't care about his health? I help those who want to live."

Smoking is an addiction. It is, literally, a stinking, dirty habit. It is easy to start and difficult to stop. Just look at all of the items in a pharmacy intended to help "kick the habit." If it is so difficult to stop smoking, why should you begin?

Financially, it is expensive to smoke cigarettes. The expense is relative to taking a match and lighting the end of a dollar bill (or, should I say a five dollar bill) and just watching it burn. Consider how many vacations you could take during the course of your lifetime by just saving the money spent for cigarettes each week. You would be surprised how fast the savings add up.

Why people smoke is mind boggling to me. Sucking in on a cigarette brings a foreign substance into your body that is harmful; blowing out smoke does what? Irritate someone who doesn't smoke? It doesn't fill you up if you are hungry, it doesn't add vitamins to your body, and it certainly doesn't look good on you! It's just smelly smoke that only adds pollution to the air. Later years will show the "sophistication" of smoking can leave you a wrinkled up, sickly individual who would love to dance or play golf, but can't, because it is too difficult to breathe. Oh, and don't forget the fashionable tank of oxygen you might have to lug all over the place!

Why compromise your lifestyle and your health for a cigarette? Be informed about cigarette smoking. Literature concerning the pitfalls of cigarette smoking can be found everywhere. Read it, and then make the right decision for you and those you love. Why? Because, at any age, can you really afford a robbery?