Give up smoking, 'while you can'

Last updated 06:00 30/07/2013

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My stand on smoking bans

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I recall many years ago visiting my father in hospital. He was in a room with three other men, two were similar in age and one who was a mid-20s street kid.  

My father was there because he had terminal end stage emphysema, caused from a life time of smoking cigarettes.

When he was 20-years-old, he went to war in Europe (WWll). He served initially in the Fleet air arm but didn't like his odds of successful landings on aircraft carriers. He then joined the navy on a British destroyer, but it was sunk while he was on shore leave with enormous loss of life. Finally, he became an infantryman in Egypt, waiting for Rommel to arrive in Cairo, something that fortunately never eventuated. 

They all smoked like chimneys back then and thought nothing of it, it never occurred to him that smoking would eventually be the death of him, there were just too many other likely scenarios.

When he returned home from war he had a full-time smoking habit and a quite intolerant nature as well. He worked, married, raised a family and retired, smoking all the way through.

His last five years of life were miserable, because he was effectively suffocating to death, each day worse than the day before. 

I recall watching him take about 30 minutes to get to the mailbox at our gate, taking breathers every few paces.  He was very determined to get the mail, but just had no physical ability to achieve it. 

One day at the hospital, I was talking to that street kid and was surprised when he told me that he was giving up smoking. When I asked why, he said "because nothing could be worse than dying like your old man is".

This is a kid with no ambition to live, in hospital because of his destructive lifestyle and total lack of regard for his own well-being. Yet he decided to give up smoking after having to spend days in the presence of my dying father.

For me it was agonising to watch a man who had survived so many terrible events in his life die so miserably from a self-inflicted disease.

He still made it to 89 but should have lived to be 100. We all know our own mortality and we mostly hope the end will be quick and clean with us still able to retain our dignity. I can assure you that dying from emphysema will not be quick nor will you die with any dignity.

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You may also find it ironic that when I was younger, I smoked a bit too - the old social smoker tradition.  But when that street kid said he was giving up smoking, so did I,  just plain cold turkey style. I was fine, not a problem at all, just seemed like everyone around me became an antagonistic pain.

If you want to give up smoking (and you should) I recommend that you go to a hospital (or hospice) and talk to people who are actually dying from smoking related diseases, especially emphysema. Watching them suffer might just wake you up to your own imminent future.

Personally I would like to see smoking totally banned, in New Zealand and everywhere else too. It's a stupid habit that is deliberately addictive in order to make others rich at your expense. Give up now while you can.

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