June 28, 2006

Waiting to inhale

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Steer clear of smokers and any of their drifting fumes. That's the advice of the surgeon general, who on Tuesday declared the debate about the dangers of secondhand smoke over.

"The science is clear: Secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance but a serious health hazard," said Richard Carmona. (Originally published on CNN.com on June 27, 2006.)

I was a smoker in college until a few more years into my career as a journalist. Then my uncle was found to have lung cancer and was given only a few months to live. He had what doctors call an "open-close" surgery, meaning after opening him up, the surgeon realized he could not do anything to treat my uncle, so the surgeon closed him up. Then I ran into some photos of lungs affected by cancer. They were black as soot and looked really terrible. I wonder how anyone with those diseased organs could live. Then and there, I stopped smoking. I didn't want to die choking on my own spit or drowning in my phlegm. It was a good thing I was encouraged by a boyfriend who said he didn't like to kiss an ashtray. Ouch!

Since I quit smoking years ago, I've tried to avoid bars and restaurants with really bad ventilation. I avoid people who smoke and really feel icky when I get home after a night out and my hair and clothes reek of cigarette smoke. If I can't avoid these public places, I usually choose a no smoking area. But of course I still suffer because my folks just refuse to quit smoking and even do it inside the house. I now have a dry cough that doesn't want to go away. I think it's related to my folks' smoking. Already in their 70s, my parents intend on smoking well into their graves. I don't even want to sit on our couches anymore or lie on their bed because they stink! Yuck! Of course they won't listen to reason and think I exaggerate when I tell them why they should stop smoking. Can anyone out there help me stop my parents from killing me?

More on second-hand smoking from the New York Times here.

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