Study: Never too late to quit smoking

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 27, 2000

It had been a long day. My friend, a hardware store owner and fellow hunter and I were worn out from walking up and down South Alabama hills, crossing creeks, chasing bird dogs and missed quail. Tough assignment, I know, but we were still tired. We were craving food and air conditioning, and we settled on a Golden Corral restaurant as a likely place to find both. Two orders of sirloin tips, sweet tea, table for two, non-smoking. We were set.

We began reflecting on the day. The good shots … those were easy to remember. The bad shots … the memories of those were beginning to fade. As it should be, I thought. We toasted the bird dogs with a pair of those brown plastic cups, now only half-filled with tea.

And then it happened, like a fog drifting in off the river, the second-hand cigarette smoke drifted in. Thick enough to obscure the view across the table, it changed the flavor of the tea, the sirloin tips and the conversation.

Email newsletter signup

&uot;There ought to be a law against it,&uot; I think one of us said. And then we noticed the clear glass ashtray perched atop our chrome napkin dispenser. We were sitting in the wrong end of the restaurant, having not followed the signs properly. It was our own fault.

But that didn’t stop us from complaining a bit. My friend said something like &uot;you ought to write a column about smoking in public.&uot;

&uot;Never,&uot; I told him.

&uot;The only thing worse than second hand smoke is self-righteous non-smokers and their annoying, chronic complaining,&uot; I think I said.

&uot;People in glass houses … it’s a free country … and all that,&uot; I thought or said. I can’t remember which.

The other day, I read a newspaper story about smoking. Actually, it’s about a British Medical Journal report on study of the harmful effects of smoking. And results of the study are enough to make a smoker hopeful or scared to death, depending on what he or she decides to do with the information.

So, this column is not about what non-smokers think about smokers or smoking in public. It’s useful information any smoker should read and, I think, worth passing along. So smokers, listen up.

Apparently, it’s never too late to quit smoking and see improved health. Even those of you who have been puffing away for most of your lives can still cut your risk of lung cancer and other awful health problems if you quit. Those younger than 35 can cut your lung cancer risk by 90 percent if you quit now.

That’s the hopeful part. But the scary part is heart disease is the leading killer of Americans who smoke and lung cancer is the second leading killer. There are 20 other diseases associated with smoking. All in all, the heart disease, lung cancer and other problems kill more than half of lifelong smokers.

Of course, we are all going to go sometime. But I would hate to see any of you go before your time.

The study found the number of premature deaths related to smoking has begun to decrease in England – and that, in fact, England leads the world in the reduction in smoking deaths. The decrease began as long ago as the 1960s, when Americans still rushed to join the smoking crowd, because an early study in Britain among doctors who smoked showed the risks of tobacco.

The Oxford study found that the longer smokers continue the habit, the likelier they are to die of lung cancer. Only 2 percent of smokers who quit by age 30 develop the disease. Ten percent of those who smoke until 60 will die of lung cancer. By the way, only .04 percent of people who do not smoke will develop lung cancer.

If you are a smoker, I hope you will think about that. Admittedly, we non-smokers don’t understand how hard it is to break the addiction, though, I’d argue there are strong similarities between an addiction to smoking and my addiction to lemon icebox pie and banana pudding.

Anyway, whether we care for the second-hand smoke or not, we would hate to see you end up on the wrong side of the statistics above. Please don’t.

Todd Carpenter is publisher of The Democrat. You can reach him by calling 446-5172, ext. 218 or by e-mail at