Smoking was a part of who I was. I smoked in boot camp when I was 18 and joined the Navy. With a few notable exceptions, I dated only men who smoked. I ignored the health lectures of family, friends, co-workers, and authority figures. When the cigarette packs started to contain caution labels, I would choose the pack that had the least drastic warning. "Cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide." That didn't sound as bad as "Smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and may complicate pregnancy." For years, I smoked under a pack a day and was active physically with my life and my kids. Slowly, however, I started smoking more and more. Sometimes out of habit, sometimes out of stress, a lot of time out of boredom or feeling that I needed to be doing something with my hands. The next thing I knew, I was waking in the morning with an ugly cough, my cigarette usage was 30 to 35 cigarettes a day, and I could no longer keep up with my kids when we went hiking. I went online and looked for help. Not only did I find a ton of information, including the latest news concerning the addiction I denied 25 years ago, but also found the Smoking Cessation forum hosted by Christine and frequented by people who, like me, wanted freedom from tobacco's chains. I always believed that there's safety in numbers. A support group was just the help I needed. I joined right up and have never regretted this - my new "choice," to be smoke-free.
When I started smoking, about half the adult population in the United States smoked. Cigarette machines were found in many gas stations. Children could purchase cartons of cigarettes for their parents. Smoking was permitted in hospitals, on airplanes, in theatres, in malls, on submarines(can you imagine being a non-smoker in that environment?), in restaurants, just about anywhere. Today, only twenty-five percent of adults smoke, cigarette machines are practically outlawed, most public places and many work places prohibit smoking, and schools are teaching children more about the dangers of tobacco. This hasn't stopped all teens from trying it, but it certainly is a lot more than was available in the past.
One last thing - my father was a heavy cigar smoker and I could hear him coughing every morning as he was getting ready for work. I hated how it sounded. So, that day as I sat on the hood of the car when I was 15 years old, I made myself a promise. I promised that if I woke up coughing, I'd quit. I'm not proud that I was addicted to tobacco for over half my life, but I am proud that I kept that promise to myself. I no longer believe it was totally a choice to smoke, but I do know that I chose to break free.