SAN FRANCISCO—I quit smoking 22 years ago, but I still live with the effects of being a one-time nicotine addict.
The most sinister one is the knowledge that I can slide back to being a smoker just like that. The addiction is that strong.
Remember that scene in The War of the Roses where Danny DeVito smashes the glass case with a cigarette and smokes it, ending his days as a non-smoker? I’ve never come close to having that kind of experience, but I can imagine that happening to me if I let my guard down.
And how going back to smoking make me feel so defeated.
They don’t happen too often nowadays. But there was a time when I’d actually have dreams in which I’d gone back to smoking. (I’d usually wake up feeling panicked which quickly turns to a feeling of relief that it was just a dream.)
Smoking is still a big health problem in the United States. Which is why I never get tired of sharing my smoking-is-hell experiences with my pre-teen son. I pretty much sum it up this way: “First, you’ll hate it. Then you’ll learn to enjoy it. Then you get hooked and will find it very hard to give up.”
Fortunately, for smokers in the US and those trying to help smokers quit, a new campaign against the habit is working.
The campaigns feature videos that aren’t exactly pleasant to watch. You can check them out here.
One shows former smokers with surgically created holes on their throats to allow them to speak. Smoking had destroyed their voice boxes.
“When you have a hole in your neck, don’t face the shower head,” a man in a shower says.
Another man shows the right way to bend down. “Crouch – don’t bend over,” he says. “You don’t want to lose the food in your stomach.”
Another video shows former smokers who had fingers or toes amputated after smoking led to Buerger’s disease.
In another clip, a man named Roosevelt says, “I always thought cigarette smoking just messed up your lungs. I never thought that at only 45, it would give me a heart attack.”
The most moving perhaps featured a woman named Terrie. She’s had throat cancer which caused her to lose her teeth and hair. She also had laryngectomy which has ruined her voice. She explains how she starts her day — by putting on her teeth, a wig and her hands-free device.
One ad doesn’t even involve a smoker. Jessica explains how her son Aden has serious asthma caused by exposure to second hand smoke. “My tip to you is: Don’t be shy to tell people not to smoke around your kids.”
The video clips are short, but direct to the point. Most important of all, they’re powerful.
An Associate Press report, citing federal health officials, said that since the campaign began last month, more than 33,000 people have called the toll-free phone number where smokers can get tips on how to quit. The phone line typically got 14,500 calls a week.
I know there’s already a growing anti-smoking movement in the Philippines. There may be lessons to be learned from the shock campaign which appears to be working in the US.
After all, smoking remains a serious problem in the homeland.
The National Youth Commission recently reported that two out of every five Filipino teenagers took up smoking in 2011, according to a news report last month in the Inquirer.
Late last year, HealthJustice Philippines, citing data from the World Health Organizations, said tobacco kills 10 Filipinos every hour.
Those are statistics that should make us all wake up with a start.
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