Dave's Journey to Stop SmokingMonday, February 18, 1980:
Meeting #5 is now history and my last day of smoking is almost finished. Cut-off day is upon us, at last. I came home feeling very confident, but was surprised that so many at the meeting were apprehensive and afraid. It is now 12:30 in the morning; I have three cigarettes left and I am smoking them just to finish them. I don’t even think I will finish them all. Once I go to bed there won't be any more smoking for me. O.K., it's 1:00 am and I decided not to smoke the last one. I put it in the water in my "butt" jar and I'm going to bed.
The preceding is what was to be the final entry in my log book on the day that I lit the last cigarette of my life -- Feb. 18, 1980. At the age of 53, and more than 35 years after I lit my first cigarette, I was done. I was ready to stop smoking.
A group of us smokers had just completed Meeting #5 of our 8 week smoking cessation program with the SmokEnders organization, anticipating that we would never again light a cigarette during our remaining days of life on this earth. I still have that last un-smoked cigarette in my "butt" jar -- the jar we used to save ashes and whatever butts we smoked during our final week of smoking, as part of the program plan. The jar sits in a metal locker in my garage to this day.
Back when I was a young smoker, things were a lot different than they are today. Cigarette smoking was an almost universally-accepted activity with most adults partaking. Even when younger folks smoked, it wasn’t really frowned on. I'd just get mild admonishments like -- "you really should stop smoking Dave, it's not good for your health." Of course, we refrained from smoking on the streets of our little Connecticut town in the event that our athletic coach (he coached all the sports in our school except track) might catch us smoking on the streets or sidewalks.
My father smoked everything and anything that could be ignited...cigarette, pipe, cigar...you name it. My friends and I smoked butts in a hay barn loft, where, with one mistake, we could have been trapped in a fast moving fire. It never dawned on us that our lives were in danger every time we lit a butt we had scrounged from our parent's ashtrays.
Then we were seniors in high school and most of us left in 1944 and 1945 to enlist in the armed forces. We were accomplished smokers by this time, and had the privilege of buying cigarettes openly, and more cheaply than they were in civilian life. More young enlisted men learned to smoke because the "war" cry in boot camp was "clean up the mess left by the smokers."
The end of WW2 came and life went back to normal. We could smoke in theaters, hospital waiting rooms and patient rooms. We smoked in restaurants, and filled our local tavern with smoke. We could light up at weddings, funerals, you name it. Smoking was allowed just about everywhere. The only restriction I can remember was that we could not smoke in church, amazingly enough.
Following that period in history, it was on to courting, getting married, having children, and bringing them home from the hospital (if you were fortunate enough to have one in your town) tucked in their little baskets with cigarette smoke wafting around them. "Get used to it, kid... you're going to grow up with cigarette smoke around you..."
My smoking career continued on, abusing my dear wife, as well as my three children. I never paid one iota of attention to the damage I might be causing them, particularly the children. Any illness or discomfort they came down with was written off as normal childhood sicknesses. Can you imagine adults in this day and age being that cavalier about secondhand smoke? Sure you can, because there are so many still smoking around their spouse and children.
Page Two -- Dave's Efforts to Stop Smoking Begin