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Among the worst effects of cigarette smoking, one you probably never thought about…

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The worst effects of cigarette smoking? There’s one every smoker suffers, but few recognize the consequence. For twenty or so years of Winstons and Marlboros, I didn’t. Until one summer evening encounter with friends…

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

By David Stone

Assorted Ideas, Large & Small

close up photo of cigarette
Photo by Basil MK on Pexels.com

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) lists the worst effects of cigarette smoking in terms of public health. There’s a hit list of cancers caused, but one statistic stands out.

Smoking causes more deaths each year than the following causes combined:

  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Illegal drug use
  • Alcohol use
  • Motor vehicle injuries
  • Firearm-related incidents

Back when I sucked down a pack and a half, every day, it was worse. Since then, forty years have passed, and intense efforts lowered usage and risk.

But it still bothers me, seeing young people with lit cigarettes in hand.

“By the time I get cancer, they’ll have a cure for it,” my friends and I used to say.

Later, it was, “If the right doesn’t get you, the left one will,” minimizing the hazards against other risks.

I was wrong and sort of knew it, but that was not what got me to quit.

A short story about the worst effect of cigarette smoking

My best friend then, Jim, didn’t smoke. Let me qualify that. Jim didn’t smoke tobacco products.

We shared many other things in common, like Monty Python, fan devotion to the Buffalo Bills and Sabres, being indie artists and, of course, almost always being close to broke.

In fact, we hung out together so much, some thought we were gay. But we were not, and a good thing too. As high energy as we were, as fiercely independent, as a couple, one of us surely would’ve killed the other. Or perished from exhaustion.

But in our mid-twenties, one thing we shared most was an enthusiasm for women. As friends, lovers and all stops in between. We’d both been married young, and one of us had even gotten legally divorced.

Looking into the decades ahead gave me an impulse to Do It Now, while there was time. No future time would ever be as full of opportunity as this one.

That included a chance to discover and, then, eliminate the worst effects of cigarette smoking.

I got the habit from my dad, by the way. Each of his days started and ended the same way: a cup of instant coffee braced by a pair of filter tip cigarettes. The only feature I dropped was the “instant” part. By then, I was drinking real coffee recently squeezed through roasted beans.

The night we met the doctors…

A pair of interns lived next door, and it was our good luck that they were both female.

“Mom always wanted me to marry a doctor,” Jim said.

Just being silly, we accosted them one evening as they arrived home. As they fumbled for keys, we peppered them with Pythonesque jokes and routines, and we followed them inside for coffee.

A connoisseur, Jim made them pledge that it wouldn’t be freeze dried.

A few minutes later, we were standing across the kitchen table from each other.

In case you haven’t noticed, doctors can be a lot like the rest of us once they’re a good distance from their smocks and white jackets. That wisdom’s irrelevant to this story about the worst effect of cigarette smoking, but it occurred to me.

Anyway, Doctor #1, the one I liked, interrupted our playful banner with an observation.

“You smoke, don’t you…” she said, her face twisted slightly with discomfort.

She’d smelled me from six feet away.

About the worst effect of cigarette smoking…

The social stigma of cigarette smoking worsens with the build up of stink on your clothes, your hands, your hair.

The worst effect of cigarette smoking you seldom hear about is how it turns off others. Think about it: I could’ve married a doctor, if she could stand being in the same room with me. Shame was, we were otherwise really compatible, easy with each other. We could even have become best friends, if never lovers.

But another truth tumbled out. I had never noticed how badly I stunk of cigarettes.

The meant, I never really smelled a rose, freshly turned soil or coffee roasting in Jim’s bin.

Within a few years, my new wife convinced me to quit, and I was surprised, after all the scary reinforcement, how easy it was. No withdrawal. No nothing but an occasional wish for one more cigarette polishing off my coffee.

Thanks to that, my risk of cancer, like the one that killed my dad, and other diseases is far less, and now, I go along through my seventies, never having been sick and no longer trailing cigarette stink behind me.

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