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Bon Journal

Up in smoke

This morning my favourite radio station Classic FM reported that George Harrison of the Beatles died of cancer.

Long term cigarette smoking probably caused the throat and subsequent lung cancer.

Yet the millions of cigarette smokers around the world continue to smoke knowing that it's a major cause of cancer and heart disease. They continue to smoke knowing that their friends and family would become victims of secondhand smoke, a contributor to respiratory disease.

They know smoking cigarettes kills. They know it's addictive. They know they are addicted. But they keep smoking.

Cigarette smokers have become so unpopular in California that my late friend Hiroko confessed that she had to smoke in her backyard to hide from her neighbours. And I recall how someone shamefully tried to hide his dirty ashtrays when I first visited his home.

Thankfully, smoking is now banned on most international flights and office buildings. But this means that the minute you leave the airport or office building, you have to walk through a cloud of smoke. And we've all become victims of passive smoking, especially outdoors.

In the last two months, I've heard on the radio and read on the Internet new studies that show why smoking is bad for you and the community.

1- Because they take "smoke" breaks, smokers are less productive than nonsmokers, who become resentful of having to work more (to compensate for these breaks).

2- Secondhand smoking is terribly bad for children. Parents should know better than to smoke inside the house.

3- Smokers are deceived to think that smoking "light" brands is less punitive. They end up smoking more cigarettes to get the same amount of nicotine.

I have many dear friends who smoke heavily. It's become very unfashionable to smoke, I tell them. The health risks are also well-known. Other than raising awareness and persuading them to quit, I don't know how else to prevent the early deaths of these dear friends.

One thing is clear: where there's a will, there's a way. And many of us nonsmokers and ex-smokers secretly believe that our smoker friends and colleagues just don't have enough guts or willpower to quit. Either that, or they aren't averse to the kind of slow, painful deaths that cancer patients endure.

30 November 2001 Friday

George Harrison's personal mission:
"The purpose of life is to find out 'Who am I?', 'Why am I here?' and 'Where am I going?'"
When I presented my friend Lemondrops upon arriving in Wales a pamphlet on how to stop smoking, she brushed it aside. [At Phillip Morris where she worked as an intern, they gave out free cigarettes. And that's how it started.] Undiscouraged, I continued to forward her articles on the bad effects of smoking. Recently, she said that she's reduced it tremendously. Now she only smokes when she drinks.
My late uncle (second son of my granduncle) died of lung cancer, not because he was a smoker. His father (my granduncle) quit smoking after his death, but it was too late.
I had to move into a 5 bedroom house of smokers out of desperation. The carpet was stained with cigarette butt prints. To this day, I cannot tell the difference between the smell of fresh coffee and cigarette smoke in the morning. My housemates smoked in my face while I ate in the kitchen. Eventually, I replaced the smokers with nonsmokers. By the time I left less than three years later, it was inhabited by nonsmokers. Finally, it was no longer smoky and filthy.
Ode to Cigarettes by humour columnist Sheila Moss