Today is the 37th annual Great American Smokeout – an event organized by the American Cancer Society that encourages smokers to either quit or make a plan to quit today.
UNMC and The Nebraska Medical Center tout a smoke free campus, and that’s great. While that status may discourage some smokers from lighting up as often or even spur them to quit, the fact is people still choose to smoke.
Smokers often know about the health risks. They know how much it costs. They know about the products available to help them quit.
That’s why today I want to take a different angle on the effect of quitting. The effect on a loved one.
I don’t claim to understand how hard it is to quit; I’ve never smoked. However, someone very close to me did for exactly 20 years: my mom.
For the first six years of my life, my mom smoked a pack and a half of cigarettes a day. Approximately 30, times 7, equals 210 cigarettes a week. I don’t even want to times that by 52 weeks a year and then 20 years.
In the spring of 1989, she finally decided to quit for good. Like many smokers, she’d tried three of four times before. Once cold turkey and once following a plan, but by herself. Then her workplace offered a group course through the American Lung Association, and it worked.
Since I was so young at the time, my memory isn’t exactly a steel trap. But I will never forget helping my mom rip up her unsmoked cigarettes. I can vividly recall our pale blue trash can filling up with filters and paper and a whole lot of satisfaction.
With quitting came a T-shirt that said “I kicked the habit” surrounded by bunch of cartoon cigarettes being stepped on by a shoe. Here my mom displays hers proudly.
Being 6, I wanted a T-shirt too.
“You were so proud of me,” my mom recalled. “So we went to the mall and had a t-shirt made up for you.”
My shirt consisted of white, iron-on letters and simply said, “My mom quit smoking: May 15, 89.” You’d think I would have been embarrassed to wear this. Maybe at age 13, but certainly not at age 6. I wore that shirt with pride.
But I couldn’t wear it to the Catholic grade school I attended. One day, then Omaha Mayor J.P. Morgan visited our first grade classroom. At the end of his visit, our teacher allowed us to bombard him with questions/comments. I immediately rushed up to the front of the room and blurted out, “My mom quit smoking!” If I remember correctly, the Mayor was quite impressed, even if the side zipper of my jumper was down.
If the examples above weren’t enough to keep my mom going in the early days of quitting, it’s possible that this next one made it all worthwhile. Every night after she would tuck me in and retreat to the living room, I would yell for her. “I love you. And thank you for quitting smoking.”
It’s been 23 years, and I told my mom the same thing yesterday when I interviewed her for this story. I’m just as proud of her today as I was at 6-years-old. And believe me, if I could still fit into that shirt, I would wear it.
If you’re reading this and you’re a smoker, I hope you’ll give some thought to the benefits quitting may have on not just you, but your loved ones. If you’re not a smoker, but have a loved one who smokes, I hope you’ll send this post their way.
For more information on quitting with help from UNMC, contact Tom Klingemann about cessation classes at 559-8757 or Jayme Nekuda about what cessation products are covered under the university insurance plan at 402-559-4340. Addiction specialists also are available through the Faculty/Employee Assistance Program and you can check out this series of posts from UNMC Today.
- Going tobacco free
- Quitting strategies
- Cravings and triggers
- Support systems and medicine
- Weight gain and the oral fixation
- The Tobacco-Free Life
It’s a great day to be a quitter!