OPINION COLUMNS

My struggles with smoking

By Joe Lambert | Published Saturday, June 2, 2018

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Each time I see a group of people huddled together outside a building with smoke flying from the cigarettes they are smoking, it reminds me of my youth when I sneaked away from the school recess and grabbed a smoke.

I started smoking at a very early age – not even 10 years old. It was the manly thing to do.

My first encounter with tobacco was an old cigarette snipe someone had thrown down that was still smoking. I took three or four puffs and was sick the rest of the day. Then from that day forward for the next 50 years it was my struggle.

Yes, off and on smoking back in the beginning. Town merchants would sell a pack of cigarettes to a kid if he had the nickel or dime to buy them. For me, hiding them from mom and dad was the problem.

I could make a pack last all week. Mom could not smell them because my dad smoked and we heated the old farm house with wood so the whole place smelled of smoke. Now, this was a kid of 9 or 10 years old. This continued through my teenage years.

Somewhere around 15, I acquired the taste for cigars and snatched a few from dad’s box and went out at night with a friend of mine and laid in the grass and puffed away.

Believe me, smoking and athletics do not mix. You just could not compete at your best and smoke. I was not fooling the coaches at all, especially Mr. Cy Young, a great man.

At age 19, the Korean War broke out, and I went into the Air Force where practically everyone smoked. Cigarettes were cheap and plentiful, and I consumed my part of them. This went on for the next five years. In the meantime, I had gotten married to a girl who did not smoke, so I heard, “You need to stop smoking,” or “You can’t smoke in the house.” So, I would sneak off to the bathroom and blow the smoke out the window, or later where I had a house with a fireplace then I would smoke in front of it and blow the smoke up the chimney.

As I mentioned, I smoked off and on. One time I had stopped for eight years and thought I had it licked. Then some guy came along whose wife had a baby and said, “Have a cigar.” Guess what happened next? Yes, I’m down at the store buying a pack of cigarettes. And the struggle continued. To me a cup of coffee or an adult beverage just seemed to taste better with a Marlboro.

Well, I never gave up the struggle that I could quit. Then one day in the spring of 1990, I was sitting with a friend in a place in Dallas smoking one of those Marlboros. It was one of those places my mother warned me not to go. It was there I realized I hated cigarettes. So, I snuffed it out, handed the rest of the pack to my friend and said I quit. That was 28 years ago, and I have not bought a pack of cigarettes or smoked since.

So, what is the point of this rant? You who struggle with tobacco issues, smokeless, chewing or those E-cigarettes, you can quit “cold turkey.” It will be the best thing that you will ever do for yourself, trust me. Your body will not smell. Your clothes, car and house will have a clean smell smoke free. Your lungs will love you and others will not have to smell your smoke. Think of all the health benefits from stopping smoking and the money you will save.

Also, it helps to ask God to give your strength to do it. You know it’s the right thing to do. So, what are you waiting for?

Joe Lambert is the former mayor of Decatur.

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