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Thursday, January 7, 2010

New AQUA Winner!!

I thought I'd start off the new year and new decade with a new AQUA award winner, so please do a drumroll on your laptop or your desk top please as I introduce the first AQUA winner of 2010 ...


You might have seen it coming, as you puffed your way through my three-part series on Searching for a Good Smoke. When it comes to smoke, CO, there is no such thing. Amazing how that one molecule of oxygen makes such a big difference: carbon dioxide we exhale normally with every breath; carbon monoxide will kill you, sooner or later ...

Since the beginning of the year is always full of resolutions, I thought I'd start with one that smokers may want to consider one more time. I'm going to quote some facts I got from the AMA about smoking in the U.S., but before I do, I want to share a few personal facts about smoking in my family.

My grandfather started smoking in the old country (in his case, that was the island of St. Michael in the Azores Islands, about a 1,000 miles west of Portugal and 2,000 miles east of New York City) when he was just a boy, at 10 years old. Unable to afford or to be allowed cigarettes, he curled up dried potato skins and smoked them. Of course, he eventually switched brands, from Yukon Gold to Pall Mall, and smoked most of his adult life. He died of bone cancer, but not until he was an old man.

My father also smoked most of his life. Lucy Strikes. He used to drive me down to the local convenience store and have me run in to get him his next pack; I was embarassed and nervous about doing so every time, being sure I would get in trouble because I was just a young kid. Never got challenged or stopped for doing so, but I hated the experience so much, I'm sure that psychologically measured in to my decision not to smoke. Dad died of congestive heart failure triggered in part by pulmonary edema.

My 32-year-old son has been smoking since he was a teenager, too. He told me he snuck his first puffs under our porch; at this point, I don't even want to know where he got the cigarettes. He has tried several times to stop: the patch; special filters and devices; cold turkey - but the weed always gets him back. I still have a hard time looking in his direction when I know he's smoking a cigarette. It breaks my heart and I'm convinced it's killing his. Maybe he'll live to be an old man or maybe he's going to experience terrible suffering and agony; none of us know. And yes, yes, I know we all die someday, but he wishes he could stop and he hasn't been able to so far.

So I am dedicating this AQUA Award to cigarettes. The miserable product does not seem to bring joy into life - it just sucks it out. I found an interesting "bookmark" in one of the old books I bought the other day - it was a tiny eight-panel brochure from Philip Morris USA; probably designed to fit in a pack of cigarettes, but spread wide open it was doing service as a bookmark. It said such things as,

"There is no such thing as a safe cigarette, including this one."

"If you are concerned about the health effects of smoking, you should quit."

I know you smoking advocates out there will be grimacing at this whole post, but it's my blog, so I'm now going to share just a few key points I found on the American Heart Association website; just consider them some points to ponder as you start of your new year:

  • In 2005, the prevalence for smoking (age 18+) was 47,100,000.

  • In 2007, 1 million people started smoking cigarettes daily in the United States within the prior 12 months.

  • About 80 percent of people who use tobacco begin before age 18.

  • On average, male smokers die 13.2 years earlier than male nonsmokers and female smokers die 14.5 years earlier than female nonsmokers.

  • Cigarettte smokers are two to four times more likely to develop coronary heart disease than nonsmokers.

  • Cigarette smoking approximately doubles a person's risk for stroke.

  • Cigarette smokers are more than 10 times as likely as nonsmokers to develop peripheral vascular disease.

  • Direct medical costs ($96 billion) and lost productivity costs associated with smoking ($97 billion) total an estimated $193 billion last year (1908).

This post is offered in loving memory of my grandfather, my father, and in hopes that my son will someday soon be able to conquer his addiction to cigarettes.

Peace out.

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