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Jack Simpson: Quit smoking before you learn the hard way

Jack Simpson

Jack Simpson

For the better part of 40 years, I smoked. Cigars, cigarettes, a pipe. Not anymore. In the 1970s, I was required to take a physical exam at a nearby military post. The Army doctor listened to my chest, said he detected emphysema and recommended that I quit immediately. I did as he directed, and cold turkey. It was very difficult but, as of today, I never smoked again.

Now observers are wondering if President Barack Obama is fighting his battle with tobacco and trying to quit. He was seen chewing gum at the inaugural parade. Was it Dentyne or Nicorette? Of course, it isn't anyone's business if the president of the United States wants to chew gum while watching a parade. If it is his way to help himself quit smoking, then more power to him. Cold turkey is not for everyone!

People who gave up tobacco are pleased to have won the battle. They applaud the president's efforts, if that is what his gum-chewing indicated. Protecting one's health is a noble goal.

When I was a teen, my mother tried to tell me that exposure to tobacco would have an adverse effect on my health. By smoking I might acquire health problems like emphysema, cancer, heart disease or lung disease. Smoking could harm eyes, throat, digestive organs and heaven knows what else. Chewing tobacco and dipping snuff was not any better.

I was a foolish kid. I did not listen, had to learn the hard way. It took an Army doctor and many years of tobacco use to convince me it was time to give up a stupid habit. I only hoped years of smoking did not prove to be irreversible.

Five million people a year die from tobacco use. So far I'm not among those statistics. Maybe I quit in time to avoid serious complications. There is a message floating around out there. So, if President Obama wasn't just chewing and was actually trying to quit smoking, maybe he heard the good words, "Protect your health. Quit smoking."

Any preventive method -- cold turkey, chewing gum -- is worth a try. Watching a parade while working on a serious problem can only be classified as a plus.

Young people who ignore mom's advice not to begin smoking will one day come to realize she was so right. But then it may be too late. Tobacco has no place in a healthy lifestyle. Yeah, I know you recognize the problem and you are going to quit. The question is, "When?"

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.