The smoking gun is a lit cigarette

Here’s something to think about: “More than ten times as many U.S. citizens have died prematurely from cigarette smoking than have died in all the wars fought by the United States during its history.” This is according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The other things they say are things that we know, such as 90 percent of deaths from lung cancers and 80 percent of COPD deaths are directly attributed to smoking or being exposed to second-hand smoke. Add to that the risk of dying from cigarette smoking has actually increased over the last 50 years despite the reduction in number of smokers and you have to have a terrific reason for quitting this disgusting habit.

Not a good enough reason? Well, then how about the fact that two of our favorite downtown watering holes are going smoke-free? Will that tip you over the edge? I personally salute both A & P Bar and Grill and 219 Lounge for taking this bold move. What about the fact that the average pack of cigarettes in Idaho costs $5.41? Smoke a pack a day? That’s close to $2,000 per year you could use for something other than making ashes.

It was in 1964 that the U.S. Surgeon General, Luther Terry, M.D. published the first report on the health consequences of smoking. Back then it seemed like everyone smoked. Blame the movies for making cigarette smoking look so sophisticated.

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published a report titled, The Health Consequences of Smoking – 50 years of Progress. In this report Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., MPH, Director of the CDC said that although there has been dramatic progress in reducing tobacco use, there continues to be a “burden of disease and death caused by smoking.”

“As a physician, when I think about smoking, I recall the patients I have cared for. The man who had a leg amputated. The woman who had to gasp for every breath that she took. The man with heart disease who hoped to see his son graduate, but didn’t live long enough to do so. That’s the reality of smoking that health care providers see every day,” Frieden wrote.

Frieden makes the statement that most smokers, who continue to smoke, want to quit. I hope he’s right. And, I hope that just one or two of you reading this column will quit smoking today. The rest of you can quit tomorrow which just happens to be The Great American Smokeout.

There are almost as many ways to quit smoking as there are reasons to stop. The best way for you may not be the best for someone else, so a great way to start is to talk to your healthcare professional. The web is a terrific resource for finding all sorts of methods; you just have to find a plan that suits you.

And, you have to be realistic. You may not succeed at first. You may go several days, or months even, and then pick up a cigarette again. Just keep a focus on why you’re quitting, the health benefits for you and those around you, and start the cessation plan over again. You can do it. Trust me.

I say “trust me” because I did it. My grandfather had emphysema for many years before he died of lung cancer. Shortly after his death a co-worker of mine confided in me that he had been diagnosed with COPD. He was 32 years old. I quit smoking for several years. But then, for reasons that make no sense now, I picked it up again. Shortly thereafter, my now late husband had a severe heart attack and I quit once more. This time for good.

Besides the health benefits of not smoking is the freedom from the addiction. Not having to worry about having cigarettes or a means for lighting them, and not having to go outside to smoke, and not having to make excuses to your friends and family is very empowering. Believe me.

Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at 208-264-4029 or kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.